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Monarch butterflies

North America's migrating monarch butterfly population falls to record lows

Wednesday, February 05, 2014 by: PF Louis
Tags: monarch butterflies, declining population, milkweed


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(NaturalNews) Each winter, millions of monarch butterflies migrate all the way from the USA and Canada to parts of Mexico and Southern California where oyamel fir trees exist in mountainous areas at 2,000 to 2,500 feet in altitude. Those trees offer ideal survival environments for adult monarchs. So they seek them out when it's too cold for them up North.

Monarchs are among the largest and most colorful of butterflies. Crowding into forests of oyamel fir trees in areas of Mexico, especially in the Mexican state of Michoacan, creates an annual winter tourist attraction for observing many large colorful monarchs hanging from the trees or fluttering about.

During December of 2013, an alarming dip was observed in the amount of acreage covered by the monarchs, 1.6 acres compared to a high of 45 acres. This harms more than just Mexico's tourism economy. Monarch butterflies, like other butterflies, are pollinators.

Although bees are considered primary pollinators, and bee keepers provide farmers with hives to ensure that their fields or orchards are pollinated to expand crop yields, butterflies are also pollinators that simply can't be domestically cultivated like bees.

According to food experts, as the bees go, so does a large portion of our food supply. That's because the pollination that spurs plant growth decreases considerably. Bee populations have been decreasing over the past couple of decades, and so have butterflies.

What's harming our little pollinator friends?

With the monarchs, many point to the deforestation of oyamel firs that has taken place in the Americas. Even in what's supposed to be a monarch preserve in Michoacan, there has been an increase in illegal deforestation. That's being remedied with a serious replanting effort that started in 1997.

But the trees won't fully mature for 15 years. Most of the soil reseeding and cultivation of the seedlings in Michoaca has occurred more recently. Then there are the deforested firs in Canada and the USA. It's good to see industrial hemp resurging in several US states. That's what our source of paper should be.

Then there are the monarchs' breeding grounds. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed plants that host the caterpillars so that they can feed on their leaves. The adult monarchs thrive on nectar from all sorts of flowers, but during the larvae/caterpillar phase, the milkweed leaves provide them with a protective toxin that stays with them as adults.

This toxin helps protect the larvae and adult monarchs from insect and bird predators. That's why the milkweed is their vital breeding host.

Many prairie areas where milkweed grows wild have been turned into agricultural sites. Milkweed spreads whenever their light fluffy pollen-carrying puffballs are carried by the breeze. Beside losing some of the land that they've grown on, there are also the herbicides and pesticides being used in increasing numbers by Big Ag.

Pesticide problems are obvious since they're sprayed onto crops and windblown into immediate areas, affecting both larvae-hosting milkweeds and adult monarchs. Even though herbicides are sprayed onto the soil, the plants draw those toxic chemicals up into the flowers containing the nectar that adult monarchs feed on.

These factors affect both the larvae-caterpillar phase and the adult monarchs, as well as other butterflies that feed on the nectar of plant flowers. The feeding cycles of both butterflies and bees are what pollinates other plants.

With all these ecological warning signs displayed, the collapse of Big Ag and mega-corporate food distribution, however long it may take, seems inevitable and welcomed by this author. That is if farmers who use traditional fundamental farming techniques will be around with enough good topsoil to fill the food gap at regional levels.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.washingtonpost.com

http://www.learner.org

http://www.fcps.edu

http://monarchjointventure.org

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu

http://www.ecologyfund.com

http://science.naturalnews.com

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