The most famous of butterflies, the Monarch butterfly, may be in danger of becoming extinct due to a decrease in their population, according to new report in January 2014. The danger comes from the shrinking of the forest ground in Central Mexico, where these butterflies go to spend the winter. The land was reduced by 44 percent, decreasing to only about 1.65 acres, which is not even the size of two football fields. This marks the third year in a row that the size of land the Monarch butterflies flies to during winter months is smaller.
The land the Monarch butterflies live on has been recorded since 1993. In 1996, the butterflies were living on 45 acres of land. Now that the land has shrunk down to 1.65 acres, people want to know what caused this drastic change. Monarch experts are blaming the warmer temperatures in 2012, which was followed by a cold snap in 2103 as the reason for the decrease in the Monarch’s winter habitat. If winter habitats continue to decrease, Monarch butterflies will become more rare, and could even become extinct.
Monarch butterflies are attracted to most species of the milkweed plant. The butterflies use the milkweed plant to lay their eggs. As the tiny caterpillars begin to hatch, they walk along the milkweed and use it as their only source of food and nutrition. After 14 days of eating the milkweed plant, the caterpillars are ready to form a cocoon so they can begin the transformation into a beautiful Monarch butterfly. If the caterpillar does not get enough food in this stage, the size of its wings could be affected during the transformation. The caterpillar spends 10 days inside the cocoon before it emerges as a new butterfly.
During their lifetime, Monarch butterflies migrate up to 3,000 miles each year during late summer to escape the harsh winter. This journey requires a massive amount of energy. Researchers have studied the lack of nutrition from the milkweed plant and how this would affect the Monarch butterfly later in life. If the butterfly did not get enough nutrition from the milkweed plant during the larva stage, the Monarchs wing size, shape, and maybe even its color will be affected. A smaller wing size would drastically affect the butterfly’s ability to travel and fly later in life and migration, for the Monarch butterfly, is critical to its survival.
The Monarch Butterfly is instantly recognizable by their black and orange pattern and their large wing size. The popular butterfly is also the state insect in several different states such as Texas and Vermont. The butterfly is also used as the emblem of the North American Free Trade Agreement. As the winter grounds become smaller, the Monarch Butterfly could become rare and even extinct. Andy Davis, a member of the research team recommends that people place the milkweed plant around their homes for the butterfly. This will help provide nutrition and a safe place to lay eggs, and could help this species make a comeback.
Opinion By Sara Petersen