Academic journal article Science and Children

Conserving Monarch Butterflies

Academic journal article Science and Children

Conserving Monarch Butterflies

Article excerpt

Researchers have pinpointed the North American birthplaces of migratory monarch butterflies that spend the winter in Mexico. This vital information will help conserve the dwindling species.

The researchers analyzed "chemical fingerprints" in the wings of butterflies collected as far back as the mid-1970s to learn where monarchs migrate within North America each autumn. The largest percentage of monarchs migrated to Mexico from the American Midwest, but the biologists were surprised to find that the insects' origins were spread fairly evenly throughout Canada and the United States.

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"We expected the vast majority of monarch butterflies to be found in the Midwestern states," says lead author Tyler Flockhart. "However, just 38% come from that part of the U.S.A. If we just focus conservation activities on this area, this research shows we will be missing a large number of butterflies born elsewhere in North America."

This is the first detailed look at the birthplaces of overwintering monarch butterflies. Monarch numbers have dropped significantly in recent years, partly because of the eradication of milkweed, which began in the mid-1990s. …

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