Nature

Monarch Butterfly Population Dropped Dramatically: What Can be Done?

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Despite reports in 2019 identifying that the monarch butterfly population in North America would see an increase, for 2020 that number appears to have dropped. Craig Wilson, Director of the Future Scientists Program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a Texas A&M researcher, was interviewed for an article in The Eagle last year, noting that the monarch’s estimated population for 2019 was anticipated to be 300 million. That would have been up 144 percent from the year previous. This year, however, the monarch butterfly has begun its spring migration early, and their numbers have decreased to just more than 140 million.

Monarch Butterfly Population Dropped Dramatically: What Can be Done?

Photo: envato elements

As a result of warmer temperatures in Mexico, Wilson noted that the butterflies have begun their migration to Texas approximately three weeks in advance of when they normally would. Normally, the monarch butterfly would mate there over the winter season and make their way up to Canada, stopping en route in Texas to lay their eggs in milkweed. Since our milkweed has yet to fully emerge for the season, the opportunity to do so is limited. Wilson spotted the butterfly’s first arrival from Mexico, which he noted was a female with faded wings. He further noted the female appeared “desperate” to lay her eggs on milkweed. Unfortunately, the milkweed has been limited, so far, to only a very few emerging leaves.

Monarch Butterfly Population Dropped Dramatically: What Can be Done?

Photo: envato elements

Unfortunately, milkweed is the only flower on which the monarch butterfly will lay its eggs. It’s also the only form of sustenance for monarch caterpillars. At present, the 2020 Texas milkweed crop appears to be low, despite efforts by residents through the Lone Star State to promote its growth. At present, Wilson has appealed to those living in the areas of the Brazos Valley to work to encourage milkweed wherever possible. Residents can even help out the monarch butterflies by planting milkweed in their personal gardens.