Endangered monarch butterfly population enjoys resurgence on P.E.I.

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Last year the Bedeque Bay Environmental Management Association tagged 45 monarchs, and this year so far they've tagged 290. (Mary Garshore/Nature Conservancy of Canada - image credit)
Last year the Bedeque Bay Environmental Management Association tagged 45 monarchs, and this year so far they've tagged 290. (Mary Garshore/Nature Conservancy of Canada - image credit)

Endangered monarch butterflies have been enjoying a population resurgence and 2022 was a banner year for them on Prince Edward Island, according to an Island watershed group.

Monarchs have been considered endangered in Canada since 2016 and in July, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature added the iconic orange and black butterfly to its "red list" of threatened species and categorized it as endangered — two steps from extinct.

"The population on P.E.I. this summer has been quite substantial," said Tracy Brown, executive director with the Bedeque Bay Environmental Management Association (BBEMA), a non-profit group that works to conserve the habitat of the watershed in the Bedeque Bay area off the coast of Summerside.

Over the past ten years, the association has been tagging and tracking monarchs as they migrate south across North America.

'Bumper crop of monarchs'

When BBEMA first began conservation efforts a decade ago, Brown said there were no monarchs to be found on P.E.I. Now, it's a different story.

Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press
Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

"We've had a very successful and a bumper crop of monarchs," she said.

"We're getting a lot of landowners that are calling us and saying 'I've got monarchs,' [or] 'I've seen a monarch somewhere in my garden, how do I enhance for that?' So it is a really good year on P.E.I."

Last year the association tagged 45 monarchs, and this year so far they've tagged 290. Brown said she hopes that number will climb to more than 350 by the end of September.

The eastern monarch population has shrunk by 84 per cent since 1996, she said. Their decline is linked to loss of milkweed they feed on along the east coast of the U.S. and Canada. And in Mexico where the population migrates to overwinter, monarch habitat is being lost to logging. However despite an increase in logging activity, Mexican experts said in May that 35 per cent more monarch butterflies arrived this year to spend the winter in mountaintop forests, compared to the previous season.

With more awareness of the plight of the beautiful pollinators, more P.E.I. landowners and farmers have sought to support monarchs by planting milkweed to create waystations, Brown said.