Some scientists believe that when a butterfly flaps its wings, it can affect weather on the other side of the world. This idea shows us all parts of nature are connected.
When I was young (I am 10 now), I believed monarch butterflies would bring me good luck. I still believe that, but I now know this butterfly is an extremely important species. The monarchs are in danger, and they need our help right now.
Monarchs have a lot to teach us about cycles in nature. They are known for their mysterious migration across North America. The round-trip adventure is more than 5,000 miles! Monarchs that live in the northeastern and western parts of the United States cannot survive the cold winters. They migrate south and west to Mexico and California around October each year.
Scientists do not fully understand the migration. Figuring out this secret could teach us a lot.
When the butterflies arrive in Mexico, they settle on the same oyamel fir trees in the Sierra Madre mountains every year. Because the trip takes a few generations, it is never the same insect that recognizes the trees year after year.
In 1976, Dr. Fred Urquhart discovered the migratory over-wintering sites of this beautiful butterfly. His work helped to create the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Since then, a lot has harmed this species. In her article “What’s Happening to the Monarch Butterfly Population?” Karen Weintraub points out a big problem with the monarchs. The numbers of western monarchs in the United States have gone from 200,000 in 2017 to only 30,000 a year later. No one knows why, but Weintraub added that an insect ecologist at the University of Nevada “pins the loss of Western butterflies on a variety of factors, including development, climate change, farming practices and the widespread use of pesticides by farmers.”
We need to stop destroying their habitat and food.
Even worse, in January of this year, two monarch conservationists were found murdered in Mexico. According to Kirk Semple’s New York Times article, the conservationists were most likely murdered by illegal loggers who want to cut down trees and use the land. These loggers want the monarchs gone!
Spring is here. There is no better time to start protecting the monarchs. Support the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, write letters to your local leaders to reduce the use of pesticides, and ask local garden shops to carry milkweed that you can plant yourself (the monarch’s only source of food).
When you plant and feel the earth, remember, you are helping these mysterious magicians of migration. The tangerine and white laced wings of the monarch are meant to fly.
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