Every autumn millions and millions of the orange glowing monarch butterflies from Canada and the USA fly to the highlands of Mexico to spend the winter months here. It is a unique natural spectacle when they lay themselves over nature like a huge carpet. For the Mexicans, the orange-black butterflies symbolize the return of the deceased souls.
It is a relay race over several generations: Some of the monarch butterflies have to cover more than 4000 kilometres on their way to their winter quarters. A single butterfly cannot do this during its lifetime. Monarch butterflies live only a few weeks and take several generations to complete their entire journey. There is still no precise research on how butterflies find their destination. But they arrive. Still, because this could be over soon.
The population of the American Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) has reached a record low. Since the beginning of the census in 1993, never before have so few of the monarch butterflies reached their wintering grounds as in the current season. This means that the population has been reduced by almost half within one year.
Agriculture is primarily responsible for the monarchy crisis. The massive use of pesticides makes it difficult for butterflies to cope. The so-called silk plants, the main food of the butterfly caterpillars, are being pushed back by the use of pesticides. As a result, there is less and less butterfly offspring. In the USA and Canada, many areas have been converted into arable land in recent years, where the monarch butterfly settles in the summer months. The monocultures that develop there deprive the beautiful butterfly of its habitat and food.
What can you do?
Always try to follow a nature-oriented agriculture. You can join farmers, ranchers, policymakers, and conservationists to help. WWF for example has some donation projects for those beautiful creatures. You can also help by planting milkweed in your backyard.