Recent studies show that our knowledge of the monarch butterfly is wrong and that the colourful winged insect does not need humans’ help, including the popular yet threatening technique of home-rearing to prevent a false decline in its population in the United States.
“Tell people that monarchs don’t need to be saved,” suggests University of Georgia ecologist Andy Davis. “They just need us to leave them alone.”
Monarchs travel 4,800 kilometres from their breeding grounds in the United States and Canada to their winter home in central Mexico’s Transvolcanic Belt every year. Two studies are challenging what we know about the migrating insect. The first focuses on DNA analysis of the butterfly’s primary host plant – the common milkweed or Asclepias syriaca – and of the monarch, concluding that neither has suffered from a decline in the past 75 years. Home-rearing and commercial breeding constitute one of the biggest threats the butterfly is currently facing. The second proves that the monarch’s population has increased by 30% over the last 25 years. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has downlisted the monarch from “endangered” to “vulnerable” since the winter population in Mexico hasn’t shown a continued decline for the past ten years.