By MATTHEW DOTY, age 11
Monarch butterflies, known by their scientific name Danaus plexippus, are recognized by their beautiful orange and black wings. Monarch butterflies east of the Rocky Mountains are famous for the incredibly long trip they take to one small patch of trees on a Mexican mountain. Amazingly, monarchs that make the trip south are not the same ones that make it back to their summer homes in the north. Scientists still don’t really understand how the children and grandchildren find their way each year, and they may never know because these monarchs are dying.
In 2004, there were approximately 500 million monarchs that made the migration to Mexico. Last year, that number was 60 million. This year, it was only 33 million.
Scientists think there are three reasons for the monarch’s decline. First, monarch larvae feed on milkweed, which is being destroyed by the herbicides farmers use to produce food for our growing population. Also, a warmer climate prevents monarch eggs from hatching. Finally, illegal logging is destroying the monarch’s winter home in Mexico.
In February, the Presidents of the United States and Mexico, and the Prime Minister of Canada, met to discuss sustainability issues and committed to create a group to save the monarch butterfly.
Protecting monarchs is important to humans because the things that are killing off the monarchs also affect other pollinators. Without pollinators, food plants don’t make food. Even if you don’t like vegetables, we can’t live without plant food because they are primary producers for all food. If we can’t save pollinators like the monarch’s, we may lose our food as well.