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What Is Causing The Decline In Monarch Butterflies?

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monarch butterfly population

GMO corn may be to blame for the Monarch butterfly population decline. A steep drop in numbers occurred in 2013, according to the World Wildlife Fund and Mexican governmental officials. Approximately 60 million Monarch butterflies spent the winter in Mexico this year. Although that figure may still sound like a substantial number, it represents an 80 percent decrease from recent years. Typically, 350 million butterflies migrate to Mexico during the cold weather months.

Monarch butterfly population numbers are now at the lowest count in the past two decades. The decrease was noted not just in Mexico, but in Canada as well. During the warm weather months, the butterflies fly north to Canada. The pretty flying creatures are routinely spotted by June each year. In 2013, the first signs of migration were not visible until the middle of July. In areas where residents typically spot 100 butterflies making their annual summer home, only five or less Monarchs were noted this year.

The Monarch population decline has been a gradual progression over the past eight years. The butterfly population numbers mirror what is also occurring among honeybee populations. Although Monsanto recently hosted a bee summit to network with beekeepers and discuss colony collapse disorder, many remain skeptical about their sincerity and feel Roundup Ready and GMO seeds are to blame for the loss of the pollinators. Some researchers and butterfly watch groups feel GMOs may also be to blame for the dwindling Monarch numbers. Monarch Butterfly Fund Chair Donald Davis recently stated that he has never seen butterfly numbers this low in all his many years of studying the population.

Monarch Watch Director Orley Taylor feels the increased planting of GMO corn in the Midwestern region of America is playing a role in the butterfly population decline. He also notes that the growth in GMO crop planting and the increase in chemical herbicide usage kills the milkweed plants that butterflies need to survive.

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Taylor also had this to say about the reasons why the butterfly population is suffering and dying off at an alarming rate:

“What we’re seeing here in the United States is a very precipitous decline of Monarchs that’s coincident with the adoption of Roundup Ready corn and soybeans.”

Extreme temperatures in the South and urban sprawl which has claimed natural habitat areas for business and residential purposes has also been noted as possible causes of the Monarch butterfly decline. While both arguments are logical, hot weather during the summer also occurred last year and the sluggish economy has not prompted any massive field or forest claiming construction projects in the past several years.

Excerpt from a Monarch Watch report about the butterfly population decline:

“Monarch/milkweed habitat has declined significantly in parallel with the rapid adoption of glyphosate-tolerant corn and soybeans and, since 2006, the rapid expansion of corn and soy acreage to accommodate the production of biofuels. Monarchs have declined coincident with these habitat losses and the losses are continuing. Monarch numbers will continue to decline unless the collective efforts of citizens, communities, and governments are large enough to offset the annual loss of habitat.”

The destruction of the milkweed plant from increased usage of GMO crops and herbicides means the Monarch butterflies have nowhere to lay their eggs. The butterflies have their offspring beneath the leaves of the plant. Some scientists and researchers fear that an entire generation of the butterflies may have been lost.

Folks who want to help save the Monarch butterflies are encouraged to plant milkweed and other nectoring plants around their property and keep insecticides away from the area.

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