The Last Monarch
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HERE IS YOUR LAST GASP OF SUMMER. Yep, most of the Monarchs are long gone – off with the winds to Mexico. But I’ve encountered America’s favorite butterfly here in Vermont as late as October 31 and along the Maine coast as late as December 1. So keep watching.
These late southbound stragglers may never make it to wintering sites in Mexico. Nectar sources along the way become scarce this late. And weather can present an obstacle. Where they end up, we’re not entirely sure. But we now find Monarchs over-wintering and wandering in the southeastern U.S. And it seems that some are wintering farther north than ever – life on a warming planet. (Of course, western Monarchs still winter in California.)
My two photos here came from Monhegand Island, Maine, on September 25. (I tried to get flight shots – with limited success.) Monhegan was lousy with Monarchs this year – a delightful close to a dismal season for our famous butterfly. The wintering poplulation last year plunged to its lowest levels ever recorded. We might yet see Monarchs rebound a bit. These are insects, after all, capable of big population swings.
Even so, biologists who study Monarchs say they now need the protections offered (sometimes) by the Endangered Species Act.
“Monarchs are in a deadly free fall and the threats they face are now so large in scale that Endangered Species Act protection is needed sooner rather than later, while there is still time to reverse the severe decline in the heart of their range,” said Lincoln Brower, preeminent monarch researcher and conservationist, who has been studying the species since 1954.
Read more about Monarchs from the Xerces Society, a conservation group you might consider supporting. Xerces works with passion on invertebrate protection and conservation. I’m about to renew my membership. As they like to say at Xerces, “We speak for the spineless.”