Local monarch butterfly enthusiast has seen sharp decline in caterpillars, eggs

·2 min read
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has added the migrating monarch butterfly for the first time to its
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has added the migrating monarch butterfly for the first time to its

Jennifer Glover-Slavik has noticed a big decline in the number of monarch caterpillars and their eggs.

Glover-Slavik raises butterflies with her five children at home in Amherstburg, Ont., but she's also a child and youth worker at Southwood Public School.

She brings the species into the classroom so students can observe the monarch's life cycle, and the beauty of their dramatic transformation.

"In 2018, we had about just over 700 caterpillars that we were able to release and tag and go from there," she said. "And in June this year, we only found six," she said.

Mike Evans/CBC
Mike Evans/CBC

For her, it's really disappointing that the species has been classified as endangered by an international group.

"Hopefully with all of the flowers and everybody trying to plant and get everything ready, we can see it come back and maybe a little bit of house-raising will help get those numbers up and save them," she said.

Her daughter, Lauren Glover, 10, who also likes raising butterflies, was also saddened by the news.

"I love to watch them grow," she said.

This region plays a special role in the annual migration of the monarch butterfly. Every fall, the insects cross Point Pelee National Park to get to Lake Erie on their 3,000-kilometre journey to Mexico.

Butterfly two steps from extinction

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has added the migrating monarch butterfly for the first time to its "red list" of threatened species and categorized it as "endangered" — two steps from extinct.

The group estimates that the population of monarch butterflies in North America has declined between 22 per cent and 72 per cent over 10 years, depending on the measurement method.

Emma Pelton of the nonprofit Xerces Society said the butterflies are imperilled by loss of habitat and increased use of herbicides and pesticides for agriculture, as well as climate change.

"There are things people can do to help," she said, including planting milkweed, a plant that the caterpillars depend upon.

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