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Good News – This Year’s Monarch Butterfly Migration Shows a Rebounding Population

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Every year, from October to mid-November, the monarch butterfly population migrate across the United States to the Mexican state of Michoacán and the Californian Central Coast with its eucalyptus and pine forests.

Monarch butterflies are the only butterfly species to travel this far, around 3,000 miles, in their thousands. The black and gold colours of their wings contribute to the stunning display filling the skies and covering trees and landscapes as they rest before continuing their journey.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, an estimated 682 million monarchs made the journey in 1997 but their numbers declined drastically over the past twenty year and by 2014 were down to 25 million, and back up to 150 million in 2016. Unfortunately, according to a survey released in January by conservation group the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the monarch butterfly population “declined to dangerously low levels,” around 80 percent in central Mexico and 99 percent along the California coast.

Several reports during this year’s migration indicate that the iconic butterflies are arriving in much bigger numbers than expected, according to Better Home and Gardens.

The iconic pollinators were observed in massive numbers in Colaorado, along their eastern route as they flew south for winter.  Colorado Parks & Wildlife captured video footage in October showing   thousands of butterflies in the sky and settling on trees and bushes at a park near the town of Lamar.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center reported on October 16 that a far greater numbers of monarchs than in previous years, had landed in Austin, Texas, where they fed on the milkweed before continuing their journey.

Data collected in January of this year by the Center for Biological Diversity, found that the population in Mexico had grown by 144 percent since the 2018 survey, even surpassing previous years since 2006. This year’s weather could also benefit the monarchs’ egg and larvae survival rate.

Although there is good reason to be optimistic, experts are urging caution. Matthew Shepard, the communications and outreach director at the Xerces Center, confirmed that accurate population counts can only me made while the monarchs are clustered at their overwintering sites in Mexico and California.

Shepard explained:

“At this point in the year, we won’t know how monarchs are doing in either the eastern states or the west.

While monarchs are spread across the landscape, it isn’t possible to get an overall count, only a sense of how things are based on the number passing through a few scattered locations.”

The species remain in danger of extinction according to previous estimates indicating a 50-75 percent risk of extinction within 20 years and 65-85 percent within 50 years.

The news of the increased numbers in this year’s migration and only be seen as a positive with  credit due to conservation groups like Xerces Society, the Center for Biological Diversity, Monarch Watch, the Monarch Joint Venture, and others whose determination and efforts knew no limits to prevent the ruin of the monarch population across North America.

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