LEBANON, Missouri- In recognition of the alarming decline of the Western Monarch Butterfly, Mayor Josh Ray has proclaimed February 5th as a day dedicated to the vibrant insect.
Scott Johnson says in recent years, the population of monarchs that stay east of the Rockies has “dropped like a rock.” Precise population numbers are difficult to come by, but estimates kept by the US Fish and Wildlife Service show about an 80 percent decline over the last decade, he writes. Even more alarming he says the Monarch may disappear from the Eastern US in the next 20 years.
But there are steps that can be taken.
The mayor wants the city to consider monarch friendly plants such as Spider Milkweed, Coneflowers, Black-eyed Susans and Blazing Stars.
The MDC says the monarch may soon have protected status. Habitat loss in their overwintering territory in Mexico is one cause, but also herbicide use throughout North America has been eliminating milkweeds, their required food plant.
Especially in the Midwest, herbicide-resistant strains of crops allow farmers to eradicate nearly all weeds, including milkweeds, across vast areas, eliminating places for the monarch to breed. To conserve the monarch, we must allow milkweeds to grow says the conservation agency.
Monarchs play an important role in all the ecosystems pass through during migration. Despite the monarchs’ general toxicity, some predators can eat them. Additionally, they developed as Müllerian mimics with the similar-looking viceroy butterfly, each mimicking the other’s warning coloration, the Missouri Department of Education says.