A new study ties the plummeting monarch butterfly population to the rise of genetically modified crops in the United States. Research in the Journal of Animal Ecology finds monarch populations are far more sensitive to the threat of declining milkweed in their U.S. breeding grounds than they are to the loss of their winter habit from deforestation in Mexico. Milkweed plants have declined more than 20 percent in the U.S. corn belt, a key breeding area, largely because of GMO crops, the study found.
Here is the Western Monarch Status as of December 8th. There were approximately 2,500 monarch butterflies at the grove.
“The Goleta Butterfly Grove (also known as the Ellwood Main Monarch Aggregation Site) is one of the largest overwintering sites in California.”
Once 80,000 butterflies could be found clinging to the Eucalyptus trees on Ellwood Mesa. Today they are all but gone.
Wouldn’t planting a few acres of milkweed assist in mitigating the decline? What would it take to start a campaign to preserve the western Monarch population at Ellwood Mesa?
Please help preserve this noble species of international travelers.
Updated information provided by Larry Dighera:
Thank you all for taking the time to address the issue of declining Monarch butterfly populations in North America.
Here are a couple of articles that substantiate the decline of Monarchs:
- LA Times World
- LA Times 2014
As you will read, this issue is being brought to the attention of the national leaders of Canada, USA, and Mexico. I am unaware of this having happened in the past.
With regard to GMOs as a possible factor in the decline of Monarchs, here is an article that offers an additional source of concern to the Monarch populations, beyond those raised in the articles above: . “A study to be published in the May 20, 1999, Nature magazine finds that pollen from genetically engineered corn plants is toxic to monarch butterflies. The corn was genetically engineered to contain a toxin from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). In 1998, almost 20% of US corn acreage was planted with Bt corn as a means to control insects, and acreage is expected to increase in 1999.
“Bt corn is engineered to contain a pesticide throughout the plant,” said Dr. Rebecca Goldburg, an Environmental Defense Fund senior scientist. “Today’s Nature study clearly demonstrates that the pesticide in Bt corn is dispersed with pollen, killing monarch butterflies.”
Corn plants produce huge quantities of pollen, which dusts the leaves of plants growing near corn fields. The Nature study found that close to half the monarch caterpillars that fed on milkweed leaves dusted with Bt corn pollen died. Surviving caterpillars were about half the size of caterpillars that fed on leaves dusted with pollen from non-engineered corn.
“For too long genetic engineering has been presented to the public as a ‘safe’ alternative to traditional pesticide spraying, but genetically engineered crops are really just being used as a new means to disseminate chemical pesticides. Monarchs that feed on pollen covered milkweed near Bt corn fields might as well be eating pesticide sprayed milkweeds,” said Goldburg. “Either way the result is dead butterflies.”
I would like to propose that a coalition of concerned individuals sponsor a crowd-funded initiative to pay genetic scientists to create RoundUp resistant strains of milkweed, and have them planted nationally as a partial attempt at mitigation.
Anyone wishing to plant milkweed in their yards to attract and propagate Monarchs may send me a self-addressed-stamped-envelope, and I will send you some seeds. Here’s the address: Save the Santa Barbara Monarchs, PO Box 60936, Santa Barbara, CA 93160.