The monarch is a beautiful black and orange butterfly; one of the largest diurnal butterflies in Canada elsewhere. You may have seen them before, because they come to walk around the houses to feed on the nectar of the flowers. However, if you had been born 20 years earlier, you would have come across a lot more. In 2003, the monarch was already considered a species at risk, but with 90% of its population in decline, it has been classified as endangered since 2016. Climate change, the use of pesticides as well as the destruction of its habitat cause unfortunately its fall.
Let's find out about the monarch
The monarch is a butterfly that is born. To reproduce, the female lays her eggs on a plant called milkweed. When the caterpillars hatch from the eggs, they are already served because they feed exclusively on milkweed.
The monarch needs to travel to find these milkweeds. It is one of the insects that make a long migration. In the fall, the monarch leaves Canada south. In two months, he travels between 2000 and 5000 kilometers. The monarchs of Quebec go to the state of Michoancán, in central Mexico. They enjoy resting all winter on the Oyamel firs of this mountainous region. He can have hundreds of butterflies on the same tree. There are, however, much less than before.
In the spring, each monarch resumes his journey north. It moves during the day to the rhythm of the flowering of its beloved plant: the milkweed. Females take the opportunity to lay their eggs. A beautiful yellow, black and white striped caterpillar emerges from the egg after three to twelve days. She revels in her host plant to reach 2,700 times her weight in about two weeks.
In order to transform into a butterfly, the caterpillar finds a safe place and becomes a pretty green chrysalis adorned with a golden line. The butterfly's body will develop in the chrysalis for eight to fifteen days.
Monarch butterflies that emerge from their chrysalis will live between three to five weeks. The adult butterfly uses milkweed to lay its eggs, but it feeds on the nectar of flowers in its path. It is protected from most predators by the poisonous agent it has accumulated by eating milkweed during its caterpillar phase. During the migration to the North, several generations of monarchs will follow one another. It is in June that you will see them flying around in your garden, here in Quebec. Monarchs that become butterflies at the end of August develop differently to be ready in the fall to migrate to Mexico. These live up to eight months.
Why do you observe the decline of the mornarch?
What is causing such a rapid and significant decline? Mainly, it is the loss of its habitat that is catastrophic. There is, of course, climate change that turns ecosystems upside down, but humans accelerate the destruction process even more by using pesticides that eliminate milkweed and nectar-bearing plants. It urbanizes the wintering and breeding grounds of the monarch. As it becomes more and more difficult to find places to lay, feed and protect themselves, the monarchs are dying.
Can something be done to help the monarchs?
Canada, the United States and Mexico are working together to conserve and restore its habitat. To understand the causes of the decline of the monarch, researchers are studying several criteria. They record the number of eggs, caterpillars and butterflies. They identify the plants in their territories and count the milkweeds. They also observe the environment and measure temperature and wind speed.
Several environmental organizations get involved, thus creating participatory science programs. People are encouraged to sow milkweed and nectar plants to attract butterflies. We have also created platforms for citizens to identify eggs, caterpillars and butterflies as well. They can register this data on these web platforms and also note where they found it.
There is no age to help monarch butterflies. The following four organizations offer you the opportunity to get involved in the conservation of the monarch and to restore its habitat:
So, if you are worried about the monarch's situation and you want to preserve its migration, take the time to properly identify the milkweed (see the photo below). Also see if there are eggs and caterpillars on it. Be careful to spot the magnificent monarch. Be careful not to confuse him with a butterfly that looks a lot like him: the viceroy. Visit the websites of the organizations named in this article to choose the one that's right for you. Casually, by putting energy into saving the monarch, an entire ecosystem benefits from it. Take action to save this pretty butterfly!
Check out the four monarch conservation organizations featured in the article to choose one that suits your values and aspirations. Talk about these organizations with your family, as they may need to help you depending on where you live. Then take the time to register:
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