The Year the Monarch Didn’t Appear

This article by Jim Robbins appeared in the New York Times.

Drawing by Micah Lidberg of a monarch butterfly on an isolated milkweed plant surrounded by corn

Drawing by Micah Lidberg

On the first of November, when Mexicans celebrate a holiday called the Day of the Dead, some also celebrate the millions of monarch butterflies that, without fail, fly to the mountainous fir forests of central Mexico on that day. They are believed to be souls of the dead, returned.

This year, for or the first time in memory, the monarch butterflies didn’t come, at least not on the Day of the Dead. They began to straggle in a week later than usual, in record-low numbers. Last year’s low of 60 million now seems great compared with the fewer than three million that have shown up so far this year. Some experts fear that the spectacular migration could be near collapse.

“It does not look good,” said Lincoln P. Brower, a monarch expert at Sweet Briar College.

Read the rest of the article.

One thought on “The Year the Monarch Didn’t Appear

  1. Speaking of iconic insects, ladybugs and fireflies are disappearing, too.

    This summer, the KATY Hiking and Biking Trail in north St. Charles and St. Charles County was one of the few places to spot butterflies. Although it’s not a native, delicate white Queen Anne’s lace bloomed along either side, drawing swallowtails and other butterflies, and small stands of common milkweed attracted monarchs. In late August, as I rode my bike, my nose and then my mind seemed to wake up to the scent of flowers and plants. It was an exotic, incredibly joyful feeling.

    But miles of meadowland lining the KATY wasn’t good enough for somebody. When I came back the following weekend over Labor Day, the trail had been mowed on either side to tree and fence line, and nothing but miles of ugly stubble remained. No butterflies. It was heart-breaking.

    I can’t imagine why anyone would destroy the natural beauty and native food for monarchs and other creatures. But I do know that the Missouri Department of Natural Resources oversees the KATY’s maintenance.

    In this particular area, monarchs breed almost all the way through October, if the weather holds. It is these butterflies who would, if not killed by mowers or pesticides or cars or predators who make the journey to Mexico.

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