If you ask someone to name a butterfly off the top of their head, it’s likely the one that comes to mind will be “monarch.” This orange and black beauty is often seen visiting garden plants and if you’ve been particularly lucky, you may have experienced monarchs en masse like a flock of geese as they migrate south to Mexico for winter.
Sadly, eastern monarch sightings are decreasing as various factors converge to reduce their numbers. The eastern monarch life cycle plays out in two locations, a relatively compact over wintering site in Mexico where millions of butterflies congregate, and breeding territories that stretch from Texas through the Midwest up to Canada. Threats to monarchs occur in both places.
In Mexico, logging has reduced the amount of suitable winter habitat and in the US and Canada, the availability of milkweed, the monarch caterpillars sole source of food, is declining due to changing agricultural practices. Unusual weather events in both places have also resulted in losses.