Monarch butterflies seem to have taken a cue from our Wall Street protesters and moved to more friendly environs for the winter. The migrating insects, numbering in the millions, have moved slightly west in their roosting sanctuaries, from Mexico state to Michoacan, says a report in El Diario Michoacan.
“It appears the butterfly now prefers the forests of Michoacan to those in Mexcio,” stated a dispatch on the website of the daily publication based in Uruapan, the municipal seat for Michoacan province.
The article quoted Oscar Contreras Contreras of the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Foundation (Funacomm) who said climate change and human activity such as illegal logging have been causing changes in the butterflies arrival and departures dates and population size for the past five years.
El Diario quoted another source who said that in the La Mesa sanctuary, in the town of San José del Rincón, the butterflies only stayed for two months “because now the conditions for their hibernation and protection no longer exist.”
The butterflies typically occupy 12 sanctuaries that straddle the mountains of the Southern Sierra Madre and Transvolcanic Belt in the Mexican states of Michoacan and Mexico. Their whereabouts change from year-to-year, and they move within and between the sanctuaries before taking flight in February and March to begin their migration north.
But this year seems different.
Monarch watchers are predicting a dreadful count, as a result of drought and wildfires in Texas, general habitat loss throughout the country and tough conditions in Mexico–environmentally and economically. The budding ecotourism industry built around the migration has been stopped in its tracks by narco violence, which has caused many tour operators to cease organizing Monarch butterfly watching tours for fears of safety. It would be no surprise that local Michoacanos might return to illegal logging as a way to feed their families and warm their homes.
We await official reports on this year’s population status, usually made available in February or March. Like the Occupy Wall Streeters here in the U.S., there’s no question the butterflies will return this spring–but in what numbers?Like what you’re reading? Don’t miss a single post from the Texas Butterfly Ranch. Sign up for email delivery in the right navigation bar on this page, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter, @butterflybeat.