The monarch butterfly, an amazing species known for its annual migration across North America, has seen its numbers Fluctuate over the past few years. Scientists who’ve studied this think a number of factors are contributing to the flux, including the destruction of habitats in Mexico (where the butterflies spend the winter), weather events such as strong storms, extreme climatic changes, and a reduction in the number of “milkweed” plants in farmland across the Midwest.
While scientists are trying to determine how each of these factors is contributing to the instability and how to fix it, recent news coverage has focused heavily on farmers’ usage of herbicides like glyphosate to reduce weeds (including milkweed populations) in their fields. Minimizing the presence of weeds in a crop is very important in having productive farmland. However, the presence of milkweed is important for monarch caterpillars which feed exclusively on the leaves of milkweed plants.
As research continues, the pressing question for all of us is: what can we do to help? We’re talking with scientists about what might be done to help the monarchs rebound. And we’re eager to join efforts to help rebuild monarch habitat along the migration path by joining with conservationists, agronomists, weed scientists, crop associations and farmers to look at ways to increase milkweed populations on the agricultural landscape.
There’s no reason agriculture can’t coexist with natural wonders like monarch butterflies and their annual migration. We want to work with other stakeholders to help the migration of monarchs from the Midwest rebound to historic levels.
Photograph by David Wagner via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.