Numbers for the insect poster child have been down by 28 per cent since last year due to bad weather and a loss of habitat.
The monarch makes a unique migration down to Mexico for the winter months, but deforestation in the mountains of Mexico are harming the population.
The monarch travels each fall down to the forests on 12 mountaintops in Central Mexico. Millions of monarchs congregate there for the winter. Illegal logging in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere has been damaging the monarch’s numbers.
The monarchs travel through Texas to get down to Mexico and last year the state faced a wide spread drought. According to the U.S Drought Monitor website, nearly 97 per cent of the state was experiencing drought conditions. Without any plants or water for the butterflies to feed, their population dwindled.
Don Davis, a life member of Presqu’ile Provincial Park, said there is hope this year as the Monarchs come back.
“The population can bounce back though; we’re seeing monarchs in 10 provinces right now, which is unusual,” said Davis. “Hopefully it is a sign of the population bouncing back. We’ve had a very early spring this year and monarchs are popping up way earlier than usual.”
Presqu’ile Provincial Park is being considered as an additional Canadian International Monarch Butterfly Reserve. That would make it the fourth in Southern Ontario along with the Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area.
Presqu’ile Park attracts tens of thousands of monarchs during migration season because of the large amount of milkweed growing there.
Common milkweed is an aggressive weed and persistent on agricultural land, making it a target for pesticide use.
The milkweed is the only plant that monarch larvae can feed on, and Davis suggests planting these in a garden and making your own monarch way station.
“People can plant a pollinator garden that has nectar plants and food plants,” said Davis. ”Common milkweed is the food for the monarch larvae. These monarch way stations help a lot for their migration, so they can take breaks on their way down to Mexico.”
Davis said he thinks that one of the key strategies for helping the monarch and other potentially at risk species is through education.
“Getting natural awareness out to today’s youth is an important step,” said Davis. “Sometimes they can be too wrapped up in their daily life to realize what’s going on around them. Getting the word out would be a huge help.”