701149275

701149275

Overwintering Monarch butterflies. Migration from US to Mexico.

Photo by: Maureen P Sullivan

Maureen P Sullivan

Monarch Butterfly Migration is Threatened by Climate Change

The monarch butterfly migration is at risk due to climate change and other environmental factors. This is how one reserve in Mexico is trying to save the day.

March 05, 2021

Did you know that monarch butterflies can travel up to 50–100 miles a day? Multiply that number by about two months, and you’ve calculated the distance it takes monarchs to migrate to Mexico. Millions of monarchs partake in the massive migration from the regions of the US and Canada to arrive in Mexico to hibernate.

1277588396

1277588396

This is a migrating Monarch butterfly feeding on a wildflower at an urban park in the city of San Antonio, Texas.

Photo by: Gabriel Perez

Gabriel Perez

According to the US Forest Service, monarch butterflies are the only known of its species to make a two-way migration. Contrary to other butterflies, monarch populations migrate to Mexico to escape the winter season in the northern climates. NPR explains that cold, damp weather is considered fatal for monarchs, while hotter, drier summers alter their habitats in the north. 2020, however, saw a 26% decline from the year prior in migration patterns identified in a report from the World Wildlife Fund and the Mexican government. With this decline, Mexico's Commission for Natural Protected Areas said, "The butterflies' population occupied only 2.10 hectares in 2020, compared to 2.8 hectares a year earlier. And the monarch Biosphere Reserve in Michoacán, Mexico, lost trees at a higher rate than it did in 2019.” Consequently, this tells us that climate factors are a key role in the monarch’s migratory process.

1173476323

1173476323

Monarch Butterflies on the ground at El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Preserve, Michoacan, Mexico

Photo by: Bob Hilscher

Bob Hilscher

Monarch Butterflies on the ground at El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Preserve, Michoacan, Mexico

With climate change as the monarch’s biggest challenge against endangerment, the species is hurdling a combination of drought, deforestation, and struggle to breed. These factors, added up, affect the overall migration and hinder population growth. Female monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed blossoms, which have been heavily impacted by the ‘wild weather’ from spring and summer of last year. Because of this, ”the development of butterfly eggs and larvae was also impacted,” according to the report.

Since 2013, Mexico has seen a steady decline in the number of migrants arriving to the region, the World Wildlife Fund explains. The effects of climate change and deforestation have become a pivotal sign that action needs to be taken to make sure a healthy migration for monarchs going forward. If not, it’s their survival and possible extinction that falls into our hands.

Next Up

Locust Swarms Plague India

With New Delhi, India on high alert after a nearby swarm of locusts, this terrifying natural phenomenon is enabled by ever-changing climate conditions and unique species behaviors.

Meet Brood X: Billions of Cicadas Emerging Soon Within Eastern U.S.

Do you hear it? If you live in the Eastern U.S., it's likely the noisy entrance of the cicadas from Brood X as they emerge for the first time in 17 years.

Fossils Found Under Greenland’s Ice Sheet

Leaf and twig fossils are discovered to be “perfectly preserved” under Greenland’s ice sheet, fascinating scientists and leading to further discovery.

Penguins Roam Art Museum in Kansas City

Penguins from the Kansas City Zoo took advantage of the lack of people in the The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and spent the morning taking in the masterpieces. They loved Caravaggio. Monet, not so much.

How the West Coast’s Wildfires Could Irrevocably Change Wildlife

Wildfires have swept across the West Coast of America this year with devastating consequences. Burning millions of acres of land in their wake, the fires have not just wreaked havoc on forests, but could have a long-lasting impact on numerous wildlife species too.

An Underwater Adventure From the Comfort of Your Couch

The Georgia Aquarium is live streaming from some of their epic habitats!

The Battle to Save California Mountain Lions

California is considering protecting mountain lions in certain parts of the state through the Endangered Species Act – but not everyone is happy about it.

Bird Enthusiasts Take Over Social Media for #BlackBirdersWeek

Because nature lovers are just as diverse as nature itself.

Could our Outdoors be Saved by the Unlikeliest Source?

Congress just passed a once in a lifetime 'Great America Outdoors Act' and here's what that means for the environment.

Cicadas: An Early Invasion

Match point, 2020. Early cicadas are here to ruin your quiet outdoor moments.