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Saving Monarchs

June 13, 2014

Scientists are looking into the causes of the monarch butterfly’s decline.



Saving the monarch butterfly. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Texas Eagle Monarch on milkweed Flickr cc

Milkweed is an important source of nectar for the monarch butterfly. (Texas Eagle/Flickr)

Each summer, monarch butterflies migrate from Mexico northward to breed on milkweeds, their host plant, with some ranging deep into Canada. But according to wildlife biologist Tyler Flockhart at the University of Guelph, their numbers are declining, because there aren’t enough milkweed plants to support them, especially in Iowa and surrounding states.

TYLER FLOCKHART (University of Guelph):

Our model suggests that the most rapid milkweed loss is happening in the central portion of the breeding range, so this includes areas of the Corn Belt, and Iowa is sort of the central state of the Corn Belt.


The findings appear in the Journal of Animal Ecology. Flockhart and his colleagues say that saving the monarch will mean increasing milkweed in agricultural areas, restoring more meadow habitat and convincing both city planners and homeowners to include more milkweed in their landscaping. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.