COLLEGE STATION, March 21, 2012 Unlike their colorful wings, the future of Monarch butterflies may not be too bright and their numbers are expected to be alarmingly down again this year, says a Texas A&M University researcher.
Craig Wilson, a senior research associate in the Center for Mathematics and Science Education and a long-time butterfly enthusiast, says reports by the World Wildlife Fund, private donors and Mexico's Michoacan state show that Monarch numbers will be down almost 30 percent in 2012 as they make their annual trek from their breeding grounds in Mexico and move across Texas.
The figures show an alarming decades-long decline in their numbers, Wilson says, adding that it is best "that we take the long view rather than yearly cycles.
"The latest information shows that Monarchs will be down from 25 to 30 percent this year, and that has been part of a disturbing trend the last few years," Wilson notes.
"Last year's severe drought and fires in the region no doubt played a part, resulting in less nectar for the Monarchs as they migrated south. But estimates show that each year, millions of acres of land are being lost that would support Monarchs, either by farmers converting dormant land for crop use mainly to herbicide tolerant corn and soybeans or the overuse of herbicides and mowing. Milkweed is the key plant because it's the only plant where the female will lay her eggs."
The loss of such lands is a critical factor in the Monarchs' survival, Wilson explains.
"Chip Taylor, who is the director of Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas, estimates that 100 million acres of land have already been lost that previously supported Monarchs," Wilson notes.
Most of the Monarch reserves are in the Mexican state of Michoacan. It's an area where Monarchs spend the winter and mate before heading north, Wilson points out.
In the spring, the butterflies leave Mexico and acro
|Contact: Keith Randall|
Texas A&M University