According to a recent report, around 140 million monarch butterflies rested in Mexico during this winter, which is a remarkable increase from the previous year.
Because these butterflies tend to stay in groups of thousands and gather on trees, lepidopterists can easily count them by looking at the area they cover.
According to the researchers’ examinations, this year the monarch butterflies formed a 10-acre blanket, which is 3.5 times larger than the one from 2015. Last winter the blanket covered 2.8 acres, which is also a rise from 2013, when we had a record low of 1.66 acres. This means that every following year saw an exponential increase in these populations.
According to Dan Ashe, who is the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says this calls for a celebration, because we can finally see the beginnings of success. Nevertheless, what researchers need to do now is build on this achievement and keep these populations thriving.
Even though this year certainly marks a fortunate rebound of the monarch butterflies, their numbers are still significantly lower than they were two decades ago. Their peak year was 1996, when they spread over 44 Mexican acres during winter time.
Tierra Curry is a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity in Washington and she believes that while this increase is a good sign, their numbers are still not enough. According to the scientist, these insects need to reach a much higher population if they want to be out of the danger zone.
Monarch butterflies face a large number of threats, starting from harmful pesticides, habitat loss and going all the way to illegal logging.
Mexico has seen an increase in illegal logging over the last few years. According to official reports, in 2017 these butterflies lost 22 acres from their resting area and the situation spreads to other countries, as well.
Monarch butterflies rely on trees to protect them from low temperatures, which means that this process of deforestation threatens their survival.
Monarch butterflies travel 3,400 miles from Canada and the U.S. during winter time and according to Juan Bezaury, who is Mexico’s country representative for The Nature Conservancy, this means that all three North American countries need to collaborate in order to protect their environment.
in 2017, President Barack Obama launched a plan meant to support their migration. Since these butterflies depend on milkweed in order to eat and reproduce, the Obama administration decided to create a butterfly corridor, by planting and protecting milkweed from harmful herbicides and mowing.
Since this plan has been implemented, the milkweed area has expanded by nearly 250,000 acres.
Image Source: NationalGeographic