Migrating Monarch Butterflies in

The butterflies, which spends the winter hibernating in the reserve's forests of Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve occupied only 1.65 acres —a 44 percent drop from the previous research, when the insects covered 2.76 acres of land.

Omar Vidal, director general of WWF-Mexico, noted by email: "The monarch butterfly as a species is not endangered. What is endangered is its migratory phenomenon from Canada to Mexico and back."

The number of migrating monarchs is plummeting for a few reasons: widespread loss of a plant called milkweed, which their young rely on for food; extreme climatic changes, like freezing temperatures, heavy rain and deforestation.

This could affect other parts of the ecosystems because monarchs pollinate plants, including some that people rely on for food, such as corn.

The monarch is noteworthy for its migration. Every autumn, millions fly south and west from southern Canada and the United States, stopping at sites along the way to breed and feed—a process that takes thousands of miles and spans five generations.

Most adult butterflies live only about a month, but the fifth generation lives about seven to eight months.

Butterflies need to lay their eggs on a specific plant: milkweed. Once hatched, monarch larvae eat milkweed leaves as their first meal.

Milkweed is not a favorite of farmers, though. Once widespread throughout the U.S., the plant has seen its range fall 58 percent due to herbicide use, especially on corn and soybean fields.

Climatic extremes are also threats to these butterflies; droughts, heat waves, and storms.

"Given the conservation challenges facing monarchs, it's vitally important that we mobilize as many people as possible," Oberhauser said.

"Through our collective efforts, monarch populations can rebound, so that their migrations may be appreciated by many generations to come."
 

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