Could Vermont Help Save Monarch Butterflies?

The monarch butterflies are dying out

Perhaps you have seen them flying by in clusters during their normal season migrations to Mexico or California. They form a cloud of orange, black, and white. They are, of course, the monarch butterflies. Yet despite their seemingly massive clusters, their population has been declining recently to the point where it becomes worrisome.
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation estimates that since the 1990s, when an estimated one billion monarch butterflies migrated, there has been an estimated eighty percent drop in population. The number of butterflies making the migration at around 56.6 million. Thus far, partnerships across the U.S. are in place to help recover and restore the population. Towards this end, there’s a monarch breeding habitat in the works.

The threat to our beautiful monarch butterflies

The loss in population is mostly due to the threat of losing milkweed, a plant that is instrumental in sustaining the lives of monarch caterpillars. With the continual use of herbicide, the plant dies out and so does the caterpillar who depends on the plant. But also the loss can be due to other things such as climate change, not just herbicide alone.
Earlier in the year, the Obama Administration and some conversation groups launched efforts to stop the declining population of the monarch butterflies. The plan involved growing two million dollars’ worth of milkweed from Minnesota to Mexico, a route that is the main migration route for the butterflies.

How does Vermont figure in?

Recently, a biologist with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department stated that the state may play an important factor in helping to sustain the monarch butterfly population. The biologist, Mark Ferguson, says that meadows and fields in the state can provide a nice habitat to house milkweed, the very plant essential to early monarch butterfly life. That way, when the monarch butterflies migrate back north after the winter season is over, to stay in the Vermont area, they then have a nice habitat in which to lay their eggs. There, the young caterpillars feast on the milkweed plant to eventually grow into the monarch butterflies we see flying on their season migration.


 

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