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Archive for Thursday, January 21, 2010

Monarch migration under threat

Monarch butterflies gather in Mexico during their winter migration in 2009. Monarch habitats are being threatened by development, logging and cold weather, and fewer monarchs are now in Mexico than ever before. Chip Taylor, director of KU's Monarch Watch, says that if current trends continue, the entire annual migration could be threatened.

Monarch butterflies gather in Mexico during their winter migration in 2009. Monarch habitats are being threatened by development, logging and cold weather, and fewer monarchs are now in Mexico than ever before. Chip Taylor, director of KU's Monarch Watch, says that if current trends continue, the entire annual migration could be threatened.

January 21, 2010

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KU expert: Monarch migration under threat

The number of monarch butterflies spending the winter in Mexico has hit an all-time low, a Kansas University researcher says. Enlarge video

The number of monarch butterflies spending the winter in Mexico has hit an all-time low, a Kansas University researcher says.

Chip Taylor, director of KU’s Monarch Watch program and a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, said that poor weather conditions are mainly to blame for this year’s decrease, which continues a long trend of declining populations.

The butterfly colonies cover 1.92 hectares (about 4.75 acres), down from the previous reported low of 2.19 hectares reported in 2004. The colonies first became known to scientists in the mid-1970s.

Other factors continue to threaten monarch populations, including logging and the loss of their habitat from development, Taylor said.

If current trends continue, the complete extinction of the species would be unlikely, but this butterfly’s annual migration could be at risk, Taylor said.

“The migration is worth saving,” he said. “It’s one of the most significant biological events that goes on on this planet.”

If the monarch butterfly migration were to come to an end, the butterfly would still exist in isolated pockets, Taylor said. It has already spread to areas such as Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand.

People interested in saving the migration should plant new habitats for the butterfly to replace the ones being destroyed — something the Lawrence community does well, Taylor said. “We need to get that message out to the entire country,” he said.

Mary Olson, a Lawrence resident, said she keeps milkweed — the only plant monarch larvae will eat — in her garden to do her part in helping to save the butterflies.

“As a gardener, it’s kind of fun to plant a garden that’s really a buffet,” she said.

Taylor is now watching the weather in Mexico in hopes that potential storms do not bring the population down even further. Taylor said he thought even if the total area covered dropped to one hectare, the population could likely survive given previous experiences with weather-related disasters.

Comments

Paul R Getto 4 years, 2 months ago

"If the normal life span is two to four weeks, how are they able to fly all the way to Mexico and survive in a colony?" = Hmmmmmmmm? Magic? That's what some of our 'alternative science' friends would allege. If we can't yet explain it, it must be mystical.

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formerfarmer 4 years, 2 months ago

" In the end, Kansas University’s adult monarch butterflies died after a week of fluttering about in a small container aboard the International Space Station.

Not bad, says KU’s Chip Taylor, director of the Monarch Watch program, after the last of the butterflies died late Friday night.

“They survived and did remarkably well, considering the disadvantages they were having up there in space,” he said of the insects whose normal adult life span is two to four weeks in the spring and summer "

The above quote is from the article about hatching buttflies in the space station. If the normal life span is two to four weeks, how are they able to fly all the way to Mexico and survive in a colony?

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none2 4 years, 2 months ago

Is there some where to go to actually "see" what milkweed they are talking about is good for monarchs around here? I think people tend to call most weeds that have a milky substance when clipped a "milkweed".

I found this website:

http://www.monarchwatch.org/milkweed/guide/index.htm

I could have sworn I have seen "Asclepias latifolia (Broadleaf Milkweed)" around here, but the info on that one says it is found in the western 2/3's of Kansas.

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Paul R Getto 4 years, 2 months ago

More canaries in the coal mines on our little blue marble.

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think_about_it 4 years, 2 months ago

So now earthquakes are caused by global warming?

OMG you people kill me.

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somedude20 4 years, 2 months ago

Boy boy boy them monarchs sure do make fer some mighty fine eatin though I'll tell ya. Dat jus whot wing sauce were made fer

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1029 4 years, 2 months ago

Monarchs aren't welcome anywhere on this planet. I thought that's why KU spent all that money to build those tiny spaceships and send them to outer space--so that they can have a better life. This planet just isn't big enough for both Humans and Monarchs. There just isn't enough milkweed to go around.

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bobberboy 4 years, 2 months ago

I noticed a very big drop in the number of them I saw last fall.

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toe 4 years, 2 months ago

Monarchs are not welcome in a Democracy.

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50YearResident 4 years, 2 months ago

"due to Poor weather conditions" Could be part of global warming some people think is a farce. I live in the country and Monarchs have been very scarce for several years now. They used to come through my area in good numbers. We will see a lot of "changes" in the next few years. Some are showing now with more flooding, extreme temperatures, earthquakes, heavy snows and shorter growing seasons,

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