|Mass of Monarchs- Wikimed|
Their population is being hit by a double whammy. First, the use of engineered crops of herbicide tolerant (HT) corn and soybeans is spreading each year. These allow farmers to plant the corn closer together and spray glyphosate (Roundup, etc) over the crops to eliminate competing weeds. Unfortunately, the milkweed necessary for monarchs to reproduce falls in that category. You can imagine the corn fields as far as the eye can see with nary a milkweed in sight.
Second, the decreased monarchs that will be migrating will face some of the worst conditions in years. Due to the drought in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Mexico, they will be navigating over 1000 miles of parched fields with no remaining nectaring plants. Even our local fields have lost most of their blooms.
Monarch Watch collects its data by volunteers who tag monarchs across the US. Lisa Bakerlink will be demonstrating monarch tagging at the Butterfly House at Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Gardens this Saturday at 2:00 PM. She tells me she has lots of butterflies to tag. The public is encouraged to visit and participate in a little bit of natural science. Click on this site for more details.
More on the plight of Monarchs is available at the Monarch Watch Blog.