This month is the month of western monarch butterflies, when they reach their highest numbers in the Pacific Northwest area. These butterflies, which breed in the area of Oregon, Idaho, or Washington, go towards California every winter. However, this year, scientists noticed a change. They noticed how the western breed of this species started disappearing slowly, and they couldn’t understand why.
Monarch butterfly populations are declining
There is a Thanksgiving tradition among volunteers which is going on since 1997, namely counting monarch butterflies on the coasts of California. This is how they noticed that, year after year, their numbers are declining.
A team of researchers from Washington State University decided to take all these counts and compare with earlier reports, and try to estimate the numbers of monarch butterfly populations and how they evolved over time. During the ‘80s, there were 10 million butterflies. Now, there are only 300,000. This translates as a 97 percent decrease in their numbers.
Scientists should start by protecting those flowers for pollination
However, Cheryl Schultz, one of the researchers involved in the count, chooses to take action instead of worrying.
“Instead of being depressed about their numbers, we should take this as a warning call, as an alarm that we need to wake up and do something.”
Among the factors that could have contributed to the decline, scientists blame human intervention on their habitat, such as pesticide use, or anything that could have seriously affected it. Also, monarch butterflies migrate for pollination purposes, and climate change has a huge impact on those nectar-giving species of flowers.
Therefore, scientists have decided it would be a good strategy to protect these plants, and create special protected habitats for them. However, this might be a little difficult, as they don’t know what path monarch butterflies follow during their migration. Even so, they are optimistic, and hope their efforts won’t be in vain.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons