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Monarch butterflies are disappearing in mid-Michigan

Michigan State University researchers connect decline to climate change
Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 5:33 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 21, 2021 at 6:32 PM EDT
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EAST LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Monarch butterflies are disappearing across the country, including in mid-Michigan.

The population has been dropping since the mid 1990s. Researchers believe until about 2004, weed killer on farms is the biggest reason for smaller populations.

A new study from Michigan State University suggests climate change has been the contributing factor since then.

“What we see there is when you have exceptionally hot years, in these places that are already pretty warm, that wasn’t good for monarchs. That generally meant the population was smaller,” said Erin Zylstra, MSU ecologist who authored the study.

Zylstra said this is a problem because the roll monarchs play in the ecosystem.

“They’re pollinators. So they pollinate a lot of the flowers and plants we see around,” Zylstra said. “They serve as a food source for a lot of other animals. They are just part of that food chain. So loosing major components of that will have other consequences.”

“By protecting the one animal, we are protecting the whole ecosystem. We also know if the monarchs are doing and a lot of those other animals are probably doing poorly,” said Jamie Elson, Fenner Nature Center naturalist.

That’s why the Fenner Nature Center is working to restore monarch populations in Lansing.

The center encourages people to help plant milkweed in its prairie. It also has a monarch house it uses most year, though it isn’t this year because of the pandemic.

“We collect caterpillars from the property and raise them until adulthood. The reason we do that is because caterpillars,” Elson said.

Elson said she hopes the monarch house will be up again next year. In the meantime, you can help save monarchs by planting milkweed around your home.

You can also help researchers collect data online by uploading observations on eButterly and iNaturalist.

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