According to worrisome reports, the monarch butterfly population is rapidly declining, suggesting both economic losses and ecosystem imbalances.
According to the Xerces Society, the beautifully colored swarms of monarch butterflies have lost 80 percent of the population in the past 21 years alone.
The U.S. population of monarch butterflies has been monitored during their wintering periods. Since the 1990’s when the flap of over one billion butterflies could be registered, today there are barely 56 million monarch butterflies in the U.S.
To reverse the declining trend in monarch butterfly population, or at least try to stop it from steering towards even lower levels, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department came up with a strategy.
According to biologist Mark Ferguson, Vermont could be a key player in the conservation of the monarch butterfly population. Historically, the Midwest boasted more than half of the monarch butterfly population. This was due to the plentiful milkweed that is so necessary for the black-orange butterfly to survive.
The abundance of milkweed slowly faded as increased agricultural production took head and the associated use of insecticides and pesticides leveled the ground.
For the monarch butterflies, milkweed is the source of life. Their eggs are placed on the plants and the caterpillars feed on it. At each of the migration sites placed on their route to central Mexico, monarch butterflies are looking for milkweed to feed and reproduce.
Mark Ferguson explained:
“A monarch that leaves its wintering grounds in Mexico will never make it to Vermont. Instead, several generations are born and die along the way, meaning that the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of the monarchs leaving Mexico eventually arrive in Vermont each summer.”
To this end, Vermont is fit to play a key role in boosting the production of milkweed which would return a great outcome on the conservation of the monarch butterfly population.
Aside from the effects insecticides have had on the growth of milkweed, a particular group of insecticides known as neonicotinoids are taking their toll on pollinators across the U.S.
Both bee and monarch butterfly populations are thought to have rapidly declined due to neonicotinoids being heavily used on gardens, trees, lawn and agricultural crops alike.
Therefore, a more compelling policy framework that addresses the use of neonicotinoids and other insecticides would be required.
Were the residents of Vermont willing to take the use of insecticides down one notch, the meadows, fields, pastures and yards would once more become the thriving habitat of the monarch butterflies.
Aside the milkweed, all nectar plants are a great boosting factor for the butterfly population. Nectar plants would be the wildflowers that used to grow on the pastures and fields of Vermont. One little effort such as leaving these plants uncut would mean the world for the conservation of the monarch butterfly population.
Economically, the monarch butterfly population, as an important pollinator is estimated to bring 24 billion dollars to the U.S. economy.
Image Source: Huffington Post