Monarch butterfly population decreasing in record numbers

Mother Nature can be a fierce lady, raining down some unthinkable terrors at a moments notice. Whether it is the unrelenting power of a tornado or the awesome fury of a hurricane, nature has a way of tipping the karmic scales. However, not everything it brings is bad news.
Nature fills the world with countless examples of beauty. In spring, it is the emergence of the vibrant colors that the blooming flowers bring to light. It is complemented by the lush green grass that awakens from its winter slumber. Then there are the myriad of creatures that beautify the landscape of nature.

None is more stunning than the Monarch butterfly. With its rich orange,red, and black colors, the Monarch stands out against the azure blue skies that typify a summer’s day. One cannot imagine what spring and summer would look like without them, but that might be something that nature lovers will have to get use to.

That is because reports out of Mexico have the Monarch butterfly population declining sharply over the past decade. Now one might ask, what does Mexico have to deal with assessing the Monarch butterfly population. Well, more than one might suspect. The Oyamel Fir Forests in Central Mexico is where these beautiful butterflies migrate to come winter. They are not built for harsh winter climates, so they retreat to this area to take refuge till spring.

Unfortunately, the latest data suggests that the numbers for the Monarch are dropping at a frightening pace. Consider the following data which was included in a Washington Post interview on the subject. In 2003, there were enough butterflies in the forests to cover close to 27.4 acres of land. Imagine that immense number of monarchs. Fast forward to 2013 and that number is but 1.65 acres.

For lovers of the butterfly, that is staggering blow. A dropoff of 26 acres worth of Monarchs is a mind blowing statistic. The question is what could possibly account for such a large decline? Well, experts seem to think there is a three fold reason in this Mexican region. The first has been some abnormal weather that has taken its toll on the population.

The first part of the weather nightmare was severe drought conditions in Texas. One might not see the correlation, but it is there. Texas is a natural refueling spot for the Monarch on the long trip down south. They stop to grab fuel from certain flowers, which they cannot get if the drought killed them off. Without this energy boost, a segment of this population will not survive the winter months.

There was also a longer colder period up north, which delayed the trip back up to northern breeding grounds. Add those up and it caused a big hit against the Monarch population. It was not the only factor, though. Mexico has suffered from deforestation, which has come as a result of illegal logging in the region. It is a sad fact of the world today that greed supersedes the natural order of things.

This is clear cut logging, meaning that the trees are not being replaced like a normal logging operation. When this happens, acres disappear, giving these Monarch butterflies fewer places to migrate to. Finally, the population has suffered from the effects of industrialized agriculture taking place in parts of the United States.

One may wonder how something in the Midwest affects the Monarchs in Mexico, but the connection is there. These Midwestern farmers are planting on a wide scale, but are doing so with genetically altered plants that resist herbicides used to ward off other weeds. This means that while those plants live, all the natural occurring ones around them are being killed.

This means the milkweed, which feed the Monarchs and are where they lay eggs, are disappearing. No milkweed leaves the Monarchs no place to lay eggs, thus decreasing the population. This one factor might be the biggest to blame for the sharp dropoff in numbers.

Scientists feel that the numbers could come back strong in the future, but things will have to go exactly right. Getting back to a normal weather pattern, while allowing the milkweed to prosper, could help the numbers to rebound. However, there are no guarantees, as long as man keeps disturbing the natural order with artificial enhancements.