Where Are All the Monarchs?

Monarchs usually arrive in our region by the first week in July and go through several brood cycles. This year, barely any arrived. The Monarch’s sensitivity to temperature and dependence on milkweed make it vulnerable to environmental changes. Since 1994, U.S. and Mexican researchers have recorded a steady decline in the Monarch population in their overwintering grounds, with 2012-2013 being the lowest recorded to date.

Monarch butterflies daybreak willow tree ©Kim Smith 2012

Temperature change and habitat loss affect breeding success and longevity. Dr. Chip Taylor, a leading Monarch researcher at the University of Kansas reports that the widespread adoption of GMO corn and soybean crops resistant to herbicides, along with with intensive herbicide use, coupled with the federal government’s incentivized expansion of corn and soy acreage for the production of biofuels have caused a significant drop in milkweed throughout the heart of the Monarch’s range. Lack of milkweed equals no Monarchs. “Monarch/milkweed habitat has declined significantly in parallel with the rapid adoption of glyphosate-tolerant corn and soybeans and, since 2006, the rapid expansion of corn and soy acreage to accommodate the production of biofuels,” Taylor wrote on May 29.

Monarch Butterfly Nectaring at Seaside Goldenrod ©Kim Smith 2011Monarchs Nectaring at Seaside Goldenrod

What can we do? Encourage conservation organizations that conserve Monarch habitat, plant milkweed, plant nectar plants, and raise caterpillars. Hopefully the weather next spring and early summer will be more conducive to the Monarch’s northward migration and breeding success, and if and when the Monarchs arrive, they will find our milkweed plants.

Monarch Butterflies New england Aster ©Kim Smith 2012Monarch Butterflies Nectaring at New England Asters

If anyone sees a Monarch, please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com or leave a comment in the comment section.

Update: For more information, see previous GMG posts on Monarchs and Milkweed:

How Exactly is Monsanto’s Roundup Ravaging the Monarch Butterfly Population?

News Release: MONARCH WATCH ANNOUNCES ‘BRING BACK THE MONARCHS’ CAMPAIGN

Cape Ann Milkweed Project

GloucesterCast Podcast 4/25/13 With Guest Kim Smith

5 thoughts on “Where Are All the Monarchs?

  1. woodlandgnome

    All of our butterflies seem to have finally flown away. We had an abundance of swallowtails this season, with several other varieties coming and going- but I never saw Monarchs. The current Fine Gardening has in interesting article on glyphosate- and fails to mention its affect on butterflies, although it does discuss its affect on aquatic life. With you, I hope they recover next season. WG

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  2. Pingback: Where Have the Butterflies Gone? | Forest Garden

  3. Pingback: Cape Ann Milkweed Project Continues ~ Plant Milkweed Seeds to Save the Monarchs! | Kim Smith Designs

  4. Pingback: Cape Ann Milkweed Project Continues ~ Plant Milkweed Seeds to Save the Monarchs! | Beauty on the Wing

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