The number of monarch butterflies in Mexico increases by 35%

Mexican experts said on Monday that 35% more monarch butterflies arrived this year to spend the winter in the forest at the top of the mountain compared to the previous season.

According to experts, this rise may reflect the butterfly’s ability to adapt to more extreme heat and drought by changing the date it leaves Mexico.

The Nature Reserve’s government committee said the butterfly population covered 2.84 hectares (7 acres) this year, compared to 2.1 hectares (5.2 acres) last year.

The number of butterflies per year does not calculate the number of individual butterflies, but the number of acres they cover when gathered on a tree branch.

Each year, the monarch returns to the United States and Canada with annual migration threatened by the loss of milkweed feeding north of the border and deforestation of the Butterfly Reserve in Mexico.

Gloria Tabera, regional director of the National Conservation Area Commission of Mexico, said logging of butterflies to wintering areas increased by about 4.5% to 13.9 hectares (34 acres) this year.

However, fewer trees have been lost due to fires, droughts, plant diseases and pests. Therefore, the overall tree loss for the 2021-22 season was approximately 18.8 hectares (46 acres), down from 20.6 hectares (51 acres) for the 2020-21 season.

However, environmentalist and writer Homero Aridjis, who grew up around the reserve, said, “There is no reliable data on the full range of timber extraction from the reserve,” and loggers often take intact trees. Claimed to be ill or affected by the storm. ..

Butterflies traditionally arrive in the pine and fir forests on the west peak of Mexico City in early November. They usually depart for the United States and Canada in March.

But Tabella said it was unusual last year as the monarch began to leave in February. It allowed them to leave before the drought and heat struck just north of the border in April and May.

“They are beginning to adapt to extreme climatic conditions,” Tabella said.

Curiously, butterflies stayed in Mexico longer than usual this year. “They left very late. There were still butterflies in April,” Tabella said. Whether that strategy worked for them will still be seen in next year’s numbers.

U.S. and Canadian activists and students were encouraged to plant milkweed, but the strategy backfired in Mexico to compensate for plant losses from clearing farmland and pasture and using herbicides. ..

Tabera urged Mexicans not to plant milkweed in Mexico, saying that it could confuse migration by encouraging monarchs to get stuck rather than heading north. She also urged people not to breed monarchs in captivity — they may be released at weddings and other celebrations — she said it could spread the disease among insects. Said.

“This continues to be a risky migration phenomenon,” said Jorge Rickers of the WWF Environment Group, despite the increase this year.

One bright spot is that more than 160,000 tourists visited Mexico’s Butterfly Sanctuary in 2021, an increase of 132% over the number visited during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

Local collective farm groups, which own much of the forest in the reserve, rely on tourism to earn income and discourage logging.

Drought, bad weather, habitat loss, especially the loss of monarch spawning monarch butterflies, the use of pesticides and herbicides, and climate change all pose a threat to species migration. Loss of tree coverings due to illegal logging, illness, drought and storms continue to plague the reserve.

However, activist Arigis said the reserve is also under pressure from illegal planting of avocado orchards, which thrive in the same general climate as drug cartels and pine forests.

“There is drug trafficking and corpses regularly appear in remote areas,” Aridis said of the area around his hometown of Contepek. “I feel like an exile from my hometown.”

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