Monarch Butterfly Migration May Be Vanishing
The lowest number of monarch butterflies ever recorded in their Mexican winter home has experts worrying about the future of the epic monarch migration.
A new report by the World Wildlife Fund and two Mexican agencies says this year’s precipitous plunge in monarch numbers is due to the loss of the insect’s main food: milkweed.
Loss of the plant’s habitat to urban sprawl and expanding agriculture is said to be literally starving the insects to death. Recent bad weather hasn’t helped.
The black-and-orange iconic butterflies now cover only 1.65 acres in the pine and fir forests of Michoacan state, west of Mexico City.
That’s compared to almost 3 acres last year and more than 44.5 acres at the recorded peak in 1995.
Experts say the long-term decline in the butterfly’s population can no longer be due to brief and unusual weather conditions.
“The main culprit is now [genetically modified] herbicide-resistant corn and soybean crops and herbicides in the USA,” which “leads to the wholesale killing of the monarch’s principal food plant, common milkweed,” said Sweet Briar College entomologist Lincoln Brower.
The extreme drought in the U.S. corn belt during the summer of 2012 also wiped out huge numbers of milkweeds. Elizabeth Howard of Journey North says that was a fatal blow to many of the iconic fliers.
Monarchs typically live only four to five weeks, except for the generation that emerges in late summer. That’s the one that migrates the entire way southward to the species’ wintering grounds in Michoacan.
Hundreds of dead animals found at South Africa airport
More than 1,600 animals were discovered crammed into two crates at the OR Tambo International Airport. The survivors are being treated at a local zoo.
The animals, from Madagascar, had been without water and food for at least five days, reports say.
They are believed to have been destined for the exotic pet market in the US.
The animals, which included at least 30 different species of frogs, chameleons, lizards and toads and geckos, had been placed in two crates about half a metre in size – one on top of the other.
The chameleons were tied in small muslin bags, while the other reptiles and amphibians were crammed into small plastic tubs. Some of the animals were so tightly packed together that they were unable to move or turn around.