Monarch Butterflies are Disappearing from the Environment
Conservationists were disappointed on Tuesday when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would not recommend putting the monarch on the threatened species list. It’s not that the species isn’t edging to extinction—the monarch meets criteria to be considered threatened, the service admits. But there are “higher priority listing actions.”
Rachael Bale, ANIMALS Executive Editor, National Geographic. The Big Question is: Why IS The U.S. Letting These Monarch Butterflies Disappear?
Every fall, the iconic orange-and-black monarch butterflies begin their migration to warmer weather. In central Mexico, monarchs by the hundreds and thousands have been arriving from the eastern U.S. and Canada, coating oyamel trees so densely that the bark can’t be seen. In the space of 10 minutes this past October, one volunteer counted 505.
On the California coast, it’s a different story. At a time when western monarchs (which live west of the Rocky Mountains) should be showing up in droves to spend the winter in groves of eucalyptus and Monterey cypress, there is mostly silence. Fewer than 2,000 have been counted this year, down from last year’s count of 30,000. And way down from the four million that wintered there in the 1980s. It’s a drop of 99 percent.
And despite the spectacle in central Mexico, even eastern monarchs, which last year numbered about 60 million, have dropped by 80 percent in recent decades.
I am kind of edgy about this also. Each year, we see a Monarchs coming around and lighting on our flowers along with the Swallowtails which our street is named after. Our granddaughters are thrilled to see them. I suspect environmental change and the use of weed and bug eradication has caused the reduction.
If you are interested there is a place where you can order the right Milkweed seeds to plant around your home which the Monarch butterflies will eat and also plant their eggs. Live Monarch Foundation For a small donation of a $dollar, they will send you 50 seeds. For those who can not afford a dollar, a self-addressed stamped envelope will get you 15 seeds.
Fires destroying habitat, with after effects in atmospheric conditions,
There is another link in the text from 2018 which predicts this would happen.
I am pretty sure that milkweed needs a proper location, not a yard that is mowed nor a field that is fallow overgrown with broom sage or Broomsedge, as it is correctly called. It is easier not to use pesticides or to use only on the most limited basis possible. We will get a pro soon to apply for termites before our home becomes infested again as it was before we bought it in 2004. By not using pesticides since that time we now have a bumper crop each year of dragonflies, preying mantis, ladybugs, and loads of different wasps and spiders. I have two rose bushes that get 3-way systemics and deer repellent and the insecticide part of the 3-way does kill off a few mantis, but mantis have a zillion other places to hunt in my yard and they were not going to feed well on those doctored roses anyway.
We see very few monarchs here and they do not hold still long enough to make sure that they are not Viceroys instead. OTOH, we have loads of both tiger and bush swallowtails. We also got loads of birds.
A Praying Mantis is one of the few insects I have seen around my house in the Acacia bush (or on a screen) which will look back at you as if to say, “Do you have a problem?” They are bold.
IOW, if you do not apply insecticides then predators will balance out with prey eventually, so I hope that does not bug you :<)
Does a monarch sit in the woods? Bush swallowtails like the little wild flowers on the floors of forest edges, but mom au natural equipped Monarchs with a bitter taste so that they could soar above sunlit fields. OTOH, Viceroys are the great pretenders, looking enough like Monarchs to avoid most predators while actually being quite yummy to perceptive birds.
My mantis buddies are way Kool. If their egg cases are left somewhere too exposed to north winds then I will move them into the blue rug juniper hedge on the south side of my patio wall. It is the warmest spot in my shrubs. After years of doing this we have loads of mantis now. It has got to suck to be a grasshopper in my yard, but they have so much open environment to pick from then mantis predators are the least of their worries. OTOH, birds….
[The Question of Balance…]
More than Monarchs: Effects of Wildfire on Monarch Butterfly Habitat
Tuesday, June 16, 2020 8:38am
Why Monarchs? While monarchs are intrinsically important, conserving monarchs matters for more than just their own protection. We’re exploring the ways that monarch habitat and conservation helps people, other wildlife and the environment in this ‘More than Monarchs?’ series! Join us to learn more.
Wildfires are a natural component of many ecosystems that serve as a catalyst for promoting biological diversity and healthy plant communities. This article presents an overview of the use and importance of fire in ecosystems across North America. The contents of the article are not relevant for all geographic areas or ecoystems. When fires burn in intervals appropriate to their ecosystem, they can clear out dead and decaying plants that begin to build up on the ground. Nutrients released from the burned material return to the soil, increasing soil fertility and availability to plants. Moreover, periodic fires remove accumulated vegetation and litter that is fuel for more devastating wildfires. The controlled use of fire can provide many positive environmental benefits and has been used as a tool by humans for centuries. Some regions, ecosystems or landscapes are not appropriate for using prescribed fire to promote healthy monarch habitat. This article provides a broad overview of history and use of fire in ecosystem health and should not be applied to all geographies.
However, since the 1980s the extent of area burned by wildfires and the severity of damages has dramatically increased. Since 2010, an average of 6.8 million acres per year have burned, more than double the normal average (National Interagency Fire Center). The 2015 and 2017 fire seasons were the largest with more than 10 million acres burned each year. Human activities have disturbed ecosystems and raised the risk of wildfire in many regions. Extreme weather events, including storms, drought, and prolonged heat waves are also contributing to increased wildfire risk and longer wildfire seasons. These complex interactions driving wildfires coincides with a decades-long severe decline in monarch butterfly populations. Wildfires can damage habitat both in overwintering sites and along the migratory pathways. Larger, more frequent wildfires can remove can both milkweed host plants, and nectar producing plants during critical time periods, while directly killing adult and immature monarchs.
Carefully planned prescribed fire can be an important tool for managing habitat and creating opportunities for nectar plants and milkweed to grow. Burning can reduce fuels and maintain grasslands and open canopy forests with high diversity of flowering plants and shrubs. When timed properly, burning can stimulate milkweed and other grassland species to re-sprout post-fire and be available for adult monarchs. Burning small patches creates mosaics of vegetation structure and enables recolonization of burned areas after the fire. Burning should be avoided on sites where monarch eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults are present. Monitoring prescribed fire and other vegetation management actions is essential to determine whether the treatments are improving monarch habitat and food sources.
The effects of wildfire on monarchs are complicated and cannot be considered as simply good or bad. Native grasslands, prairies, woodlands, and other habitats for monarchs depend on disturbances such as weather events, herbivory, and wildfire to create diversity across the landscape. Without periodic wildfire, in the long term, the quality and amount of these habitats for monarchs will change as various woodlands and forests encroach. Healthy forests and woodlands are essential for pollinator habitat. In ecosystems where it is appropriate, carefully managed prescribed fire can be used as a tool to support health and biodiversity within that system. It is important to note that while prescribed fire can be an important management tool, it can also cause major detriment to some species or if used where it is not appropriate. There are many factors and conditions that need to be considered before deeming prescribed burning appropriate. It is best to always consult with local experts before considering this option for habitat management.
Managing wildfires is just one example of how the work we do for monarchs can make a difference in many ways. What are the co-benefits of monarch conservation that matter most to you? Keep following our “More than Monarchs?” series to hear more stories of what monarchs can do for us, our communities and our world.
Article written by Sean MacDougall of the Bureau of Land Management for the Monarch Joint Venture