With its unmistakable black, white and bright orange colours, the Monarch butterfly has always been a distinct part of Canada’s natural landscape. But over the last several years, these winged creatures have been disappearing at an alarming rate.
For the next few months, the Montreal Insectarium — in collaboration with several universities — is asking citizens to help them track the breeding habits and patterns of the monarch butterfly.
In this study, researchers will be looking at how the decline in number of milkweed plants (the plant that the butterfly feeds on primarily), is affecting the Monarch’s breeding patterns in Canada. According to the project’s lead researcher Maxim Larrivée, there is substantial evidence demonstrating the presence of milkweed plants in Canada has diminished because of the systemic use of herbicides to get rid of weeds, and due to mass urbanization.
Traditionally, Monarch butterflies spend the summer months in parts of Southern Canada and the United States before migrating to warmer climates, but a recent report shows that fewer and fewer butterflies are making it back down south during the winter.
For their part, citizens are being asked to go out and take note of the different areas where they see milkweed plants. Then, on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, return to the same location and take note of the number of eggs, caterpillars and finally butterflies they see. Citizens should type in their findings on the project website. In order to reduce the margin of error, every piece of information submitted is later evaluated and validated by experts.
Larrivée adds that this study is also meant to create community participation in nature and helps younger children build a strong bond with their environment.
“Our main object is to improve the Monarch’s reproduction in Canada,” Larrivée says. “In order to do so, we need to be able to evaluate the best places for them to breed.”
For more information, visit http://www.e-butterfly.org/monarchmission/