Monarch Butterfly Migration Patterns Under Threat

Migration patterns of the monarch butterflies are under severe threat. Unable to survive the cold of winter, they typically escape to a warmer climate. This migration of the monarchs usually starts around October. Studies by the Mexico Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in December of 2013, found that the butterfly colonies are dwindling. They are at the lowest number of butterflies since 1993.

Monarch butterflies can be seen worldwide. This migration starts in Canada every year and ends up in Mexico. They make their new homes in the Oyamel fir trees of Mexico. Butterflies that live west of the Rocky Mountains usually wind up close to Pacific Grove, California, spending their winter in eucalyptus trees.

Monarch butterflies have been studied and are found to spend their winters in the exact same trees each and every year. Even though they are different butterflies, they still know the precise tree that will be their new living space. Every year, it is an entirely different generation of monarchs that make the 2,500 mile journey.

Migration patterns of the monarch butterfly are under threat. The director of the World Wildlife Fund in Mexico, Omar Vidal, has said that the monarch butterfly is not an endangered species,however, the phenomenon of the migrating butterflies from Canada and back again is endangered.

The migrating butterflies are able to live longer than most butterflies. This is so they can endure the long flight to start new generations. Monarchs will migrate to get away from the cold and to find food.

Baby caterpillars (larvae) of the monarch butterflies can only eat milkweed. Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on the milkweed plants. When they hatch, the larvae rely on the milkweed for about two weeks which supplies them with necessary vitamins and the ability to grow. Once they turn into butterflies, the monarchs are able to consume water, nectar and liquids from various fruits. Bananas, watermelon and oranges are among their favorites.

Milkweed is disappearing. Trees are being cut down in order to build houses and roads. Farmers are spraying herbicides. Genetically modified soybean and corn corps are playing a part in destroying the milkweed. There are also massive changes in the weather that have an effect on the butterflies. Freezing temperatures, droughts and heavy rains also play a part in the numbers of monarch butterflies declining.

It has been 20 years since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed. The United States, Canada and Mexico signed environmental pacts that were put in place to protect species that migrate. The symbol that represented the cooperation of the three countries was chosen. It was the butterfly. Omar Vidal has said that the symbol is now at a grave risk of disappearing.

The migration patterns of the monarch butterflies are under a serious threat. It has become an issue that people are working hard to resolve. Educational programs and reaching out to the populations of all three countries are vital. Environmentalists, conservationists, wildlife devotees and butterfly enthusiasts are all looking for ways to help prevent the monarch butterfly yearly phenomenon from disappearing completely.

by Saki Kahala


Boston Globe
Monarch Butterfly
Forests for Monarchs