Monarch butterfly population on the decline - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Monarch butterfly population on the decline

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WSIL -- Each year, Eastern Monarch butterflies migrate from Southern Canada, through the Midwest and East coast to Mexico where they hibernate. 

Richard Little, Horticulture educator for the University of Illinois, says populations are counted during hibernation and there's been a sharp decrease, "Southern Mexico, they've seen a 90% decrease from the peak of the recorded population in the mid-to-late 1990s." 

Each season, predators take out 15 percent of the population but changing weather patterns also play a part. "If you have a massive snow storm or an inland hurricane that can wipe out a large amount at one time," Little explains. 

To help increase the population before hibernation, more can be done when Eastern Monarchs are breeding in areas like Southern Illinois. Efforts including eliminating or using organic pesticides. "They reduce the reproduction of Monarch butterflies, so they don't lay as many eggs," Little says. 

Margie Rehagen, Manager at Plantscape, says gardeners can also help by growing Milkweed. The native plants are the only thing Monarch caterpillars eat and adult Monarchs lay their eggs on them. 

While adult Monarchs feed on an array of native plants. Rehagen says these include False Indigo, Joe Pye Weed and the Coneflower.  

A government study found that if conditions continue, there's up to a 57 percent risk of the Eastern migration collapsing within the next 20 years. 

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