Monarch Migration Plunges to Lowest Level in Decades – NYTimes.com

Monarch Migration Plunges to Lowest Level in Decades – NYTimes.com.

But an equally alarming source of the decline, both Mr. Taylor and Mr. Vidal said, is the explosive increase in American farmland planted in soybean and corn genetically modified to tolerate herbicides.

The American Midwest’s corn belt is a critical feeding ground for monarchs, which once found a ready source of milkweed growing between the rows of millions of acres of soybean and corn. But the ubiquitous use of herbicide-tolerant crops has enabled farmers to wipe out the milkweed, and with it much of the butterflies’ food supply.

“That habitat is virtually gone. We’ve lost well over 120 million acres, and probably closer to 150 million acres,” Mr. Taylor said.

A rapid expansion of farmland — more than 25 million new acres in the United States since 2007 — has eaten away grasslands and conservation reserves that supplied the monarchs with milkweed, he said.

The monarchs’ migration is seen as a natural marvel and, for Mexico, a huge tourist attraction. But naturalists regard the butterflies as a forward indicator of the health of the food chain. Fewer butterflies probably means there are fewer other insects that are food for birds, and fewer birds for larger predators.

Here on my ranchito I have seen no monarchs this year.  It is a little early for their migration through central Texas (at least here in north Erath County, Texas), and I will hold off making any conclusive statements about their pattern for several more weeks.

I have only a few sprouts of milkweed on my 53 acres.  I know precisely where the milkweed is and seek to keep it flourishing for the butterflies.

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12 Comments

Filed under Life Out of Balance, Monarch Butterfly

12 responses to “Monarch Migration Plunges to Lowest Level in Decades – NYTimes.com

  1. Sometimes they come as far east as us, but I’ve seen them mostly in the hill country, Kerrville and surrounds. I just saw my first butterflies yesterday – two yellow sulphurs. It may be just a little early yet, as our flowers and trees still are only easing into bloom.

    The Moody Gardens in Galveston just opened a new film and exhibit called Flight of the butterflies . The film’s joined with interpretive exhibits, and everyone who saw the film last weekend was provided with free milkweed seeds and instructions on how to plant them. They said they’d keep distributing the seeds until they were gone. A friend who went down on Tuesday came home with seeds for her garden.

    • I have heard of the Moody Gardens. I must see the film. I am looking for the monarchs, and, by golly darn, I am going to photograph the first one I see here on the ranchito!

  2. My wife tells me that this is discussed in Barbara Kingsolver’s latest book, which she just finished. Some of the unintended consequences of industrial agriculture are devastating, of course. And there is a boom in Midwest farmland prices right now (some would say a bubble) causing more and more acres to be plowed up to grow corn.

    Too few people realize that the damage from loss of a species isn’t limited to that species. There can be potentially devastating ripple effects, as the NYT piece mentions.

  3. Jack,

    At the Museum we are showing that same movie Linda is talking about — “Flight of the Butterflies,” telling the story of the couple who spent their lifetimes tracking the stickered insects – noting that all paths ended at the Rio grande … since no publicity had been sent to places in Mexico. Interesting to know how recent the discovery of the migration was – in the 1970’s.

    Thanks for sharing this article. We need to keep track even though it is depressing.

    • I must see the movie. I never knew the monarch roosts in Mexico were so small.

      • OOps – I didn’t say it clearly. Was referring to the process by which the scientists were collecting the data – since they didn’t realize the range went into Mexico, they didn’t send queries there – so all of their data showed the flyways ending at the Rio. No one in Mexico knew they were collecting the data until one man from the U.S. was living in Michoacan, and he was the tip off.

      • I am glad now the mapping goes into Mexico. Thanks, Cirrelda, and to the man in Michoacan.

  4. Another unintended result of Monsanto/Dow, etc. agriculture. The connection between herbicides, pesticides, GMO crops, and real impacts to the ecological systems of this country are nearly endless. Losing acres and acres of milkweed just because a chemical company wants to increase profits and control agriculture is completely insane. Worse, few are paying attention.

  5. Pingback: James S. Craig~~Ireland~~Texas | Texas Tudors Memorials

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