97% Decline in Monarch Butterflies


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At least that's the headline in yesterday's Guardian newspaper. However, I find that hard to believe, but if it's true there's something missing...I would think...

If the total monarch population really did decline by 97%, then I would think they would be a very rare thing for anyone to see, just like any other animal population that has been decimated. Personally I see them every year, tons of them, they're actually one of the most common butterfly species in my yard; however, it must be noted that Florida has a native population that doesn't migrate, but that's mostly in the southern regions. >>> https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/fl/newsroom/releases/?cid=NRCSEPRD363613

I'm curious how many of you have (or have not) seen a dramatic decrease in the numbers of monarchs?


Whoops: Forgot to put a link to the article in question, with an excerpt...

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/07/its-a-sad-reality-a-troubling-trend-sees-a-97-decline-in-monarch-butterflies

Excerpt:

In the 1980s, roughly 4.5 million monarchs wintered in California, but at last count, there may be as few as 30,000


The hillside groves of eucalyptus trees that tower over the Santa Cruz shoreline would, not so long ago, be teeming with monarch butterflies at this time of year.

Boughs would be bent under the weight of black and orange clusters, as hundreds of thousands of the magical invertebrates nestled into the leaves, waiting out the frost on the California coast before returning north.
 
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Where I live it's hard to say if there is a decline in Monarchs. I see them all the time along with their look alikes the Queen and Viceroy. What is declining here, without a doubt, are the wild honeybees.
 

JBtheExplorer

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If the total monarch population really did decline by 97%, then I would think they would be a very rare thing for anyone to see, just like any other animal population that has been decimated. Personally I see them every year, tons of them, they're actually one of the most common butterfly species in my yard; however, it must be noted that Florida has a native population that doesn't migrate, but that's mostly in the southern regions.

Keep in mind, the Guardian's article isn't about the total North American population, it's referring to the west coast population, which is separated from the east by the mountains. They face their own challenges that may be similar or more challenging than the rest of the population. I follow some Californians on twitter that say they've seen very few, or even no Monarchs at all this year.
fallmigrationmap.jpg



As far as the eastern population, which covers everything east of the Rockies, you can see the graph below how the population has changed since the mid 90's. One may assume that numbers would've been considerably higher well before the 90's, when prairie still blanketed much if the midwest, but we do know that the 90's had a much higher population than today. There has been natural fluctuation over the years, but the trend has been downward, and fast. It's impossible to count every single butterfly, so they measure it by how many hectacres are occupied by the butterflies while they're overwintering in Mexico, since they all overwinter in the same locations in mass numbers. There was a positive jump in the winter of '15-'16 that left a lot of people hopeful, but sadly, there was a terrible winter storm at the tail end of that winter that hit the overwintering population. It left a lot of them weak or dead, and their numbers have been trailing downward ever since.
Monarch_Eastern_Population_Graph.png



Over the years, I have seen very few Monarchs. Nothing like when I was a kid. They used to be everywhere. This year was different than recent years. High numbers of Monarchs were reported across the midwest. Whether or not that will have a positive impact on the official overwintering numbers is unknown. They face a lot during their migration. Habitat loss, weather, insecticides and other forms of pollution will all play a factor, as well as the destruction of their overwintering grounds. Illegal logging in Mexico in and near their overwintering grounds has been a very serious problem.
 
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JBtheExplorer

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What is declining here, without a doubt, are the wild honeybees.

Honey bees aren't from the US, so it makes sense that they'd struggle in a place that they were never supposed to be. Of course, insecticides and other issues also play a role. I'm OK with them disappearing, though, but not OK that those same issues effect our native bees, that need the nectar that European honey bees take from them. Plus, our natives are much better at pollinating. (y)
 
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You're right JBtE, they are talking about the California variety; I'm so sorry, but I quickly skimmed thru the story before posting and then came back and read it -- Sorry to everyone, I usually don't do that...:oops:

I have read before that California, like Florida does have a native variety that doesn't migrate to Mexico. So as far as their numbers, I guess I can't say, all I can say is that I don't see any decrease, since they are the most common butterfly in my yard.

However, I will weigh in on the other issues of native bees and honeybees. My Father raises honeybees up in Virginia/Maryland area and he has had a major problem with them dying off virtually every year. He's so frustrated that he's thinking about getting a Russian variety, since the European variety seems to be less hardy.

I see bees every year in great numbers, although I do wonder if the honeybees belong to a domesticated hive or are wild, I don't know, but very curious about that; they always seem to be around in great numbers.

Same with the native bees, but it's probably because they see my yard as an oasis, since so many here have mostly grass yards; I do wonder about the greater population in my area. I do think my allowing "weeds" to grow (for habitat) and not using any x-icides helps them a lot.

We can only hope and help to promote less use of x-icides and use of more native plants for habitat expansion.
 

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