Have you been wondering why you haven’t seen as many monarch butterflies as usual?
In the past few years, it seems as though there have been far fewer monarchs on their annual migration throughout the United States and Canada, but scientists are making great strides in studying their migration patterns and trying to figure out what might be causing this decrease in population.
Luckily, there are plenty of other things you can do to help these beloved creatures out! Keep reading to learn more about the monarch migration and how you can help them survive and thrive.
Why Are Monarchs Migrating So Early This Year?
The Monarch butterflies have been in a major decline since 1999, when there were about one billion of them and today there are less than 60 million of them.
Scientists think that is due to a combination of factors: light pollution (which makes it hard for monarchs to navigate), loss of overwintering habitat in Mexico, extreme weather events and changing land use practices.
The monarch population tends to follow milkweed availability. Milkweed is their only food source and they lay their eggs on it.
Why Are They Migrating so Far South?
In recent years, North America’s monarch butterflies have been flying south for winter in record numbers.
Scientists aren’t exactly sure why—but they think changes in land use and temperatures have altered where milkweed grows, making it harder for monarchs to find food and lay eggs.
While their migration is a natural phenomenon that has occurred every year since their species first formed, scientists are concerned that changing habitat conditions could endanger monarch populations over time.
What Are People Doing About It?
Although monarch butterflies are protected by federal law, there are still steps you can take to remove them if they pose a risk to your personal safety or property.
You’ll want to make sure you know which butterfly it is and how best to approach it. If you think a monarch on your property might be sick, weak, injured or dead, contact a wildlife rehabilitator immediately.
And remember: if you find an insect on your property with white spots anywhere on its body or wings, don’t touch it.
Who Should I Call If I See a Monarch on My Property?
Seeing a monarch butterfly on your property may seem cool, but you shouldn’t be hoping to find one. Monarch butterflies migrate from as far as Canada, throughout most of the United States and even into Mexico.
In fact, they can travel up to 3,000 miles in their lifetime. If you spot a monarch on your property during migration season, don’t try to relocate it. They need to fly in order to live and their flight could take them hundreds of miles away if they were moved by accident.
Once fall hits and it becomes cold for monarchs outside of Mexico, that means that migrating season is over for them until next year—though some overwintering populations remain at higher elevations in California, Texas and Arizona.
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