Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Where are the monarchs?

Monarch butterfly on a flower My family is obsessed with monarchs butterflies. Every summer, we collect monarch eggs and raise them to adulthood, at which point we release them. We have a butterfly garden, where we can observe the monarchs and other butterflies in their natural habitat. My husband even wrote a book in which a monarch plays an important role.

This year, though, we've been asking ourselves, where are the monarchs? We haven't seen any monarchs, or many butterflies at all, in our butterfly garden. My husband and son went camping this weekend, and didn't see any butterflies there, either. So far this summer we've found a grand total of ONE monarch larva (caterpillar), which was almost ready to pupate when we brought it in to finish growing to adulthood. We've seen no monarch eggs. What's going on?

It's true that we usually see the largest number of monarchs here (Maryland) in August and September, but we usually can find some throughout the summer. This year, though, there's almost none to be found.

Apparently, we aren't the only ones asking the question. Monarch Watch recently posted an article on their blog about the very subject:

Monarch Watch: Where are the monarchs??

While the low numbers of monarchs isn't good, the article points out that there is some hope: because the butterfly population is low, parasites and predators that depend on the butterflies may dying or not reproducing, which will give the next generation of monarchs a better chance. Here's hoping!

Monarch photo copyright 2005 Sheila Ruth. All rights reserved.
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