Missing Monarchs
News Shorts
Posted: February 09, 2024
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    Monarch butterflies land on branches at Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, California. (AP/Nic Coury)

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This winter brought some bad news for butterflies. The number of monarchs at wintering areas in Mexico dropped by 59 percent. That’s less than half of last year’s number. In all the years people have kept records of monarch numbers, levels have been lower only once.

Why so few butterflies? Experts blame heat, drought, and loss of habitat.

God designed monarchs to make an astounding journey. No single butterfly lives to complete the entire trip. They start in Canada and the United States. As weather gets colder, they fly to Mexico. They land in the pine and fir forests west of Mexico City. After wintering in Mexico, the butterflies fly north. New generations are born along the way. Those offspring reach southern Canada. Then they take the trip back to Mexico at the end of summer.

You might wonder: How do people count all those butterflies?

Imagine numbering each tiny set of wings. That would be a big job! But the butterfly count doesn’t calculate the individual number of insects. It counts the number of acres they cover when they clump together.

The butterflies covered a little more than two acres this winter. Last year, they covered nearly five and a half.

The lowest level was in 2013. That year they covered just over one-and-a-half acres.

Some traditional butterfly spots had almost no monarchs. The monarchs appeared to have moved to higher, cooler mountain tops nearby. About two-thirds of the butterflies counted this year were found outside their usual hangouts. Experts say the monarchs were looking for lower temperatures.

But here’s the good news. Butterflies at some of the new wintering sites weren’t counted. So there may be more monarchs than the official count shows. Also, far fewer trees were cut down in the Mexican wintering grounds this year. Butterflies gather on their branches to stay warm.

And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. — Hebrews 4:13