A new report by the World Wildlife Fund in association with the government of Mexico shows that there is a drastic decline in the number of monarch butterflies hibernating in Mexico. The report indicates that the number of butterflies had reduced by 26% in December 2020 compared to the same month in 2019.
Monarch butterflies are among the most beautiful migratory insects in the world. Every fall, they treat people in the U.S. and Mexico to a stunning show as they migrate to Mexico to hibernate for the winter. Unfortunately, logging in Mexico and some climate factors have dealt a blow to their population.
The report shows that the butterflies occupied nearly 7 acres in their hibernation ground in Mexico in 2019. In 2020, the monarchs only occupied about 5.1 acres of forested land.
According to Jorge Rickards, Director-General of WWF Mexico, the migration of the butterflies across two countries shows how collaboration is necessary for their conservation.
“Monarch butterflies show us how individual work, in this case, migration, can become an exceptional collaborative exercise, when all these migrants gather in the forests to hibernate together and buffer the climate,” Rickards said.
The report has linked the decline in numbers of monarch butterflies with deforestation. The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, which is the major hibernation area, lost four times more trees in 2020 than it did in 2019. While natural events, such as wind and drought, have contributed to tree loss, the decline in trees is also attributed to logging and pest-control activities. The report indicates that such tree losses have hindered monarch butterflies’ reproduction and have also interfered with their migration patterns.
“This limited the reproduction of the Monarch population, with an impact on the migrant generation, reducing the population of this insect throughout North America and leading to a smaller population occupying the Mexican forests during its hibernation,” the report says.
In the U.S., monarch butterflies are on the brink of being classified as an endangered species. If the species is not protected, the world is likely to lose the only known two-way migration butterflies. According to WWF, they travel up to 2,800 miles in a year to spend winter months in Mexico.
Image via Ulrike Leone