Say Goodbye to the Monarch?

So I lied to you. A few posts back I said this would be my next post. Sorry about that. The seniors at the Lodge where I work  all joke about having CRS (Can’t Remember Shit). I may be checking in soon.

I don’t remember (CRS) where I got this picture.

The headline is “The Year the Monarch Didn’t Appear“. The story by Jim Robbins appeared on the New York Times website.

“ON the first of November, when Mexicans celebrate a holiday called the Day of the Dead, some also celebrate the millions of monarch butterflies that, without fail, fly to the mountainous fir forests of central Mexico on that day. They are believed to be souls of the dead, returned.

This year, for or the first time in memory, the monarch butterflies didn’t come, at least not on the Day of the Dead. They began to straggle in a week later than usual, in record-low numbers. Last year’s low of 60 million now seems great compared with the fewer than three million that have shown up so far this year. Some experts fear that the spectacular migration could be near collapse.”

“Another insect in serious trouble is the wild bee, which has thousands of species. Nicotine-based pesticides called neonicotinoids are implicated in their decline, but even if they were no longer used, experts say, bees, monarchs and many other species of insect would still be in serious trouble.

That’s because of another major factor that has not been widely recognized: the precipitous loss of native vegetation across the United States.”

The subject of Climate Change isn’t mentioned in the story. Loss of native vegetation, price of corn, herbicides and people’s lawns are the main problem. A new study brings climate change into the picture.

“Researchers from UBC, the Université de Sherbrooke and the University of Ottawa combed through Canadian museum collections of more than 200 species of butterflies and matched them with weather station data going back 130 years. They found butterflies possess a widespread temperature sensitivity, with flight season occurring an average of 2.4 days earlier per degree Celsius of temperature increase.

The researchers used the date of collection found in records to estimate the timing of flight season for each species, and compared it with historical weather data.”

“With warmer temperatures butterflies emerge earlier in the year, and their active flight season occurs earlier,” says Heather Kharouba, lead author of the paper published this week in Global Change Biology. “This could have several implications for butterflies. If they emerge too early, they could encounter frost and die. Or they might emerge before the food plants they rely on appear and starve.”

Honeybees on the Verge of Extinction: That the shocking headline for this post.

“Just like in the mid-1970s EPA said yes to known deadly substances for the convenience of farmers and for the profit of a handful of chemical companies, EPA repeated its misguided policy in the early 2000s. Now the neonicotinoids are spreading death to honeybees all over America and the world.
I have known about this tragedy for some years, but I always hoped honeybee keepers and reasonable farmers would minimize the harm. I was wrong.
A few days ago I called up a beekeeper inviting him to an environmental conference planned for June 2015. He declined because, he said, there would be no honeybees left in another year or two.
I was stunned. I asked him to explain.
“Scientific evidence mounts almost daily confirming the decades-long observations of beekeepers that pesticides are playing a major role in the dramatic decline of honeybees and other pollinators,” he said to me.”


The butterflies that I have seen flying around lately have all been Painted Ladys, Vanessa cardui. The picture above is from the Little River Airport this last Saturday. I don’t know if our warm weather has them flying later this year, I don’t have any data to prove that. 

Wikipedia states that, “V. cardui is one of the most widespread of all butterflies, found on every continent except Antarctica and South America…Vanessa cardui butterflies are raised in many preschool and elementary classrooms to demonstrate the life cycle of a butterfly. Naturally, this is one reason they are so popular amongst children. They are also often found in science fair projects…Groups of two to eight Painted Lady butterflies have been observed to fly in circles around each other for about one to five seconds before separating symbolizing courtship. Groups of butterflies usually will not fly more than 4.5 meters away from the starting point. In order to establish and defend their territory, adult males will perch in the late afternoon in areas where females are most likely to appear. Once the male spots a female of the same species, they will begin pursuit of her. If the foreign butterfly is a male, the original male will give chase, flying vertically for a few feet before returning to its perch.”  That last part may explain why I’m noticing them this year.


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