After a record low decline, the monarch butterflies are returning to California

PACIFIC GROVE, CA (AP) – There is a ray of hope for the disappearing orange-black western monarch butterflies.

The number of wintering people on the central coast of California is recovering after a population, the presence of which is often a good indicator of ecosystem health, reached an all-time low last year. Experts are drawing their bills on climate change, habitat destruction and food shortages caused by drought.

The Xerces Society’s annual winter census recorded less than 2,000 flies last year, a huge drop in tens of thousands and millions of trees in recent years from Mendocino County in Northern California to Baja California, in southern Mexico. 1980s. Now their overnight stays are mostly concentrated on the central coast of California.

This year’s official census began on Saturday and will run for three weeks, but an unofficial census of scientists and volunteers shows more than 50,000 rulers are in the wintering areas, said Sarina Jepsen, director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

“This is certainly not a recovery, but we are really optimistic and really happy that there are rulers here, and it gives us little time to work for the recovery of the migration of the Western monarchs,” Jepsen said.

The monarch butterflies of the west head south from the northwest Pacific to California each winter, returning to the same places and even the same trees where they cluster to stay warm. Rulers usually arrive in California in early November and spread across the country when warmer weather arrives in March.

Rulers from across the west migrate to about 100 wintering locations off the Pacific coast of Central California each year. One of the most famous wintering sites is the Monarch Grove Sanctuary, a city-owned site in the coastal town of Pacific Grove where no reigning butterflies occurred last year.

Located 70 miles (112 kilometers) south of San Francisco, the city has been working for years to help the declining population of the monarchs. The well-known town of “Butterfly Town, USA” celebrates the orange and black butterfly parade every October. Messing with the monarch is a crime that will result in a $ 1,000 fine.

“I don’t remember having had such a bad year before, and I thought they were over. They were gone. They’ll never come back, and most certainly, this year, the boom, they landed, ”said Moe Ammar, president of the Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce.

This year, a preliminary census showed more than 13,000 monarchs arrived at the site in Monterey County on top of pines, cypresses and eucalyptus trees, raising hopes among the volunteers and visitors to the grove that struggling insects could recover.

Researchers do not know why the population grew this year, but Jepsen said it is likely a combination of factors, including better conditions in their nesting areas.

“Climate factors may have affected the population. We could have had a flood of monarchs from the eastern United States, which can sometimes happen, but it’s not known for sure why the population is what this year is, ”he said.

Eastern monarch butterflies travel thousands of miles from southern Canada and the northeastern United States to spend the winter in central Mexico. Researchers estimate that in the eastern United States, the monarch population has declined by about 80% since the mid-1990s, but in the western United States, the decline has been even steeper.

The western monarch butterfly population has declined to more than 99% of the millions that overwinter in California in the 1980s as their dairy butterfly habitat is destroyed along their migratory route as their habitat expands and the use of pesticides and herbicides increases.

Scientists have also observed the impact of climate change. In addition to agriculture, climate change is one of the monarch’s endangered drivers of extinction, disrupting 3,000 miles (4,828 kilometers) of migration annually, synchronized with spring and wildflowers.

“California has been in drought for several years and they need sources of nectar to be able to fill their stomachs, be active and survive,” said Stephanie Turcotte Edenholm, a docent at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History who offers guided tours of the sanctuary. “If we don’t have nectar sources or the water that provides it, that’s a problem.”

Monarch butterflies do not have the legal protection of the state and federalism to prevent the destruction or deterioration of their habitat. They were denied federal protection last year, but insects are now among the candidates for a federal law on endangered species.

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Rodriguez reports from San Francisco.

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