January 29

Monarch butterfly migration may disappear, report says

The wintering butterflies now cover only 1.65 acres in the forests west of Mexico City, down from a peak of more than 44.5 acres in 1995.

By Mark Stevenson
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

A Monarch butterfly perches on a tree at the Sierra Chincua Sanctuary in the mountains of Mexico’s Michoacan state. A report blames the dramatic decline of the butterfly’s numbers on the loss of habitat in Mexico’s mountaintop forests and the massive displacement of its food source, the milkweed plant, in the U.S.

The Associated Press

click image to enlarge

Monarch butterflies gather on a tree at the El Rosario Butterfly Sanctuary near Angangueo, Mexico. Extreme weather – extreme cold snaps, unusually heavy rains or droughts in Canada, the United States and Mexico – have apparently contributed to the butterfly’s decline.

The Associated Press

“They were part of the landscape of the Day of the Dead, when you could see them flitting around the graveyards,” said Gloria Tavera, the director of the reserve. “This year was the first time in memory that they weren’t there.”

Losing the butterflies would be a blow for people such as Adolfo Rivera, 55, a farmer from the town of Los Saucos who works as a guide for tourists in the Piedra Herrada wintering ground. He said the butterflies had come later and in smaller numbers this year, a fact he attributed to a rainy winter. “This is a source of pride for us, and income,” Rivera said.

Butterfly guide Emilio Velazquez Moreno, 39, and other farmers in the village of Macheros, located inside the reserve, have been planting small plots of milkweed in a bid to provide food for the Monarchs if they decide to stay in Mexico year-round, which he said some do.

Sitting beside a mountainside patch of firs where the butterflies were clumping on the branches, Velazquez Moreno, a second-generation guide who has been visiting the butterflies since he was a boy, said “we have to protect this. This comes first, this is our heritage.”

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