The monarch butterfly population has been on the decline for decades, but Great Neck artist Marvin Anchin spotted this beauty in his yard this summer.
“I was lucky to get these photos on my purple butterfly bush of a monarch feeding,” said Anchin. “I rarely see monarchs anymore—that’s why I planted butterfly bushes around my house to attract them.”
Monarchs need places to reproduce and feed, however herbicide use in the U.S. is decreasing the availability of the primary food source for baby caterpillars, the milkweed plant, which monarchs also use to lay eggs, causing the North American monarch population to decline more than 90 percent in the past two decades, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Climate change threatens to disrupt the monarch butterfly’s annual migration pattern by affecting weather conditions in both wintering grounds in Mexico and summer breeding grounds in the U.S., the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reported. Colder, wetter winters could be lethal to these creatures and hotter, drier summers could shift suitable habitats north.
“Forests in Mexico where monarchs spend their winters are being torn down and warmer weather is confusing butterflies, which wait for cold temperatures to begin their annual migrations,” said the WWF.
In fact, its 2013 report from Mexico showed that the number of monarch butterflies wintering there was at its lowest in 20 years. It said that abnormal patterns of drought and rainfall in the U.S. and Canada breeding sites may have caused adult butterfly deaths and less plant food for caterpillars. Fewer butterflies up north means fewer then migrate south to Mexico for the winter.
“The monarch butterfly is one of the most recognizable species in North America and it’s in trouble,” said the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. “Habitat loss and fragmentation has occurred throughout the monarch’s range. Pesticide use can destroy the milkweed monarchs need to survive. A changing climate has intensified weather events which may impact monarch populations.”
In the United States, there is a massive effort to provide habitats for monarch butterflies, imperiled bumble bees and other pollinators that are responsible for pollinating our food supply.
Here’s how you can help:
• Plant milkweed and nectar plants that are native to the area.
• Garden organically to minimize your impact on monarchs, their food plants and other pollinators.
• Become a citizen scientist and monitor monarchs in your area.
• Educate others about pollinators, conservation and how they can help.