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Biodiversity: Endangered species protection sought for dwindling monarch butterflies

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Can monarch butterflies be saved?

Pesticides, habitat loss and GMO crops seen as main threats

Staff Report

FRISCO —As monarch butterfly populations dwindle to unprecedented low levels, activists say the colorful and far-ranging insects need protection of the Endangered Species Act to survive. In a formal listing petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a coalition of advocacy groups say the widespread use of pesticides and genetically modified crops are the biggest threats to the butterflies. Continue reading

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Study: Americans willing to pay for monarch butterfly conservation

Monarch butterflies during migration. PHOTO COURTESY GENE NEIMINEN/USFWS.

Monarch butterflies during migration. PHOTO COURTESY GENE NEIMINEN/USFWS.

Changes in gardening habits could help protect a cherished species

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Americans be willing to pony up for Monarch butterfly conservation, according to a new study that links conservation and economic values.

The research, conducted by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey. Colorado State University and the University of Minnesota, suggests that willingness could add up to big bucks — $6.5 billion that could be used to support conservation efforts.

Monarch butterfly populations have been declining across Mexico, California and other areas of the United States since 1999.

A 2012 survey at the wintering grounds of monarchs in Mexico showed the lowest colony size ever recorded. Much of the decline  has been blamed on the loss of milkweed, the native plants on which monarch caterpillars feed. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Monarch butterflies in steep decline

Monarch butterflies during migration. PHOTO COURTESY GENE NEIMINEN/USFWS.

GMO crops blamed for significant 10-year drop in population numbers

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —A decades-long downward trend in Monarch butterfly numbers is expected to continue this year, with reports from the World Wildlife Fund and other sources indicating there may be almost one-third fewer butterflies making the northward flight from Mexico this spring and summer.

This year’s steep decline may, in part, be due to last summer’s severe drought in Texas, which resulted in less food for the showy insects as they traveled south. But year-to-year fluctuations don’t hide the overall long-term trend of population decline.

“The latest information shows that Monarchs will be down from 25 to 30 percent this year, and that has been part of a disturbing trend the last few years,” said Craig Wilson, a senior research associate in the Center for Mathematics and Science Education and a long-time butterfly enthusiast.

This year, according to the Texas Monarch Watch, Monarchs covered about 7.14 acres of forest in their Mexican breeding grounds compared to 9.9 acres last year, and it shows a continued long-term downward trend in Monarch population since official surveys began in 1994. Continue reading

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