The population of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico is said to be more than three times larger than what was seen last year.
It’s exceptional news for conservationists in Nebraska and elsewhere who are trying to restore the population that’s dropped by 80% in the past 20 years.
Entomologist Sue Blodgett gives some credit to Midwesterners who are planting milkweeds by the thousands.
“I think that’s probably helping,” Blodgett says. “Of course, there’s other factors, too, the lack of any drought where the monarch have to migrate through.”
The orange-and-black insects are a key factor in providing pollination services to agriculture that are estimated to be worth $3-billion a year. Blodgett says the monarch is an important insect.
“It’s iconic and it also is a really good indicator of habitat,” Blodgett says, “and not just habitat for the monarch but habitat for other pollinators, birds and other wildlife that we value.”
The World Wildlife Fund reports that this winter’s survey found adult butterflies covered about ten acres of forest in Mexico. During the last three winters, overwintering butterflies occupied three or fewer acres.
Blodgett says the goal is to see a sustained monarch population of about 15 acres, or 225-million butterflies through domestic and international efforts.
“In the past, there’s been some big storms or frosts or freezes that have gone through Mexico that have devastated the population,” Blodgett says. “Because of that migration, there’s a lot of weather factors involved that can influence that population.”
One way Nebraskans can help in their back yards or on larger pieces of property is by planting milkweed, which monarch caterpillars love. There are many flowering varieties of milkweeds, and she says at least one of them will look good in your landscape.