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When I logged in on Saturday January 9th, I was greeted with a Google doodle of a Monarch Butterfly. This date marks the day the overwintering site of this regal species was “discovered” in Mexico 41 years ago. I say “discovered” because the native people had long known about the arrival of the butterfly, coinciding with their harvest and also Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).  Some believed the millions of butterflies to be the souls of the dead.

Almost everyone knows about the Monarch (and that Viceroy, well, that’s a Monarch to them, too). People love them, are aware of their plight and want to do what they can to help. If you are a species with conservation needs, you want to be like the Monarch. So why is the poster child of butterflies in trouble?

In 2011, Monarchs were very abundant here at Tupper Hill. Our fields were full of milkweed and almost every plant you looked at had eggs or caterpillars.  The past few years, my high count was three Monarchs for the entire season.  Like most conservation issues, you can’t point to just one cause. It’s a culmination of many issues: Habitat loss (both here and at their overwintering sites), illegal logging, drought, climate change and milkweed decline.

The loss of milkweed troubles me; it is the elephant in the room.  As more herbicide-resistant GMO crops are used, milkweed is disappearing from the edges of fields.  Milkweed is a weed, after all, but the loss of these tiny lepidopteran oases is of paramount significance.  These way stations provide habitat for Monarchs in their long journey.

For more information and to find out what YOU can do to help the Monarch, visit[lightbox link=”” thumb=”×225.jpg” width=”300″ align=”center” title=”Monarch Butterfly” frame=”true” icon=”image” caption=”Monarch Butterfly”]

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