The depressing facts keep piling up. Humanity’s success story appears to be a species-against-species version of trickle-down economics; that is, we thrive and multiply while the rest disappear. I grew up on a 2-acre lot in a Boston suburb, and there were hundreds of milkweed plants. Now it looks like Monsanto and industrialized agriculture are killing off the milkweed — and one of the world’s great wonders along with it.Read it and weep:
According to a new report from the World Wildlife Fund, fewer Monarchs migrated in 2013 than in any year since researchers began keeping records two decades ago.
Every winter, the orange-winged butterflies, whose habitat range stretches all along the west coast of North America, migrate more than 2,500 miles from southern Canada and the U.S. down into Mexico. Millions of monarchs take refuge from the cold in Mexico’s temperate forests, holing up until March when they return to the north.
But over the years, the Monarchs’ numbers have declined. World Wildlife Fund researchers, who have studied the annual Monarch migration since 1993, say several factors have contributed to the butterfly’s disappearance. The biggest influences are loss of habitat and reduction of milkweed, the Monarchs’ primary food source, along North America’s western shores.
“The combination of these threats has led to a dramatic decline in the number of monarch butterflies arriving to Mexico to hibernate over the past decade,” Omar Vidal, the World Wildlife Fund director in Mexico, said in a statement. “Twenty years after the signing of the [North American Free Trade Agreement], the monarch butterfly migration — a symbol of cooperation between our three countries — is in grave danger.”
When the scientists began systematically measuring their extent, the winter clumps of Monarchs in central Mexico covered forty-four acres. Now, it’s just a little under two. Entomologists pinpoint the GMO crops and herbicides which have wiped out the butterflies’ food sources.
I remember Monarch caterpillars chomping the milkweed plants in my yard. Now I think I’ve seen maybe two or three milkweed plants in my entire neighborhood.
The problem with most extinction events is that they happen too slowly for us to notice. That’s clearly not the case with the Monarch butterfly. There are a few things we can do, beginning with planting milkweed in our gardens. Here’s a link to get free milkweed seeds from LiveMonarch.com.
To learn more about Monarch butterflies, MonarchWatch.org is an excellent resource.