Almanack Contributor Ernest Williams

Ernest Williams is an ecologist who taught at Hamilton College for 34 years. He has a summer camp on Twitchell Lake.

Friday, March 5, 2021

2021 outlook for monarchs in the Adirondacks

monarch butterflyThe size of the overwintering population of Eastern monarch butterflies was just released on Feb 25, and the number shows yet another decline (to a total of 2.1 hectares/ 5.2 acres; details are shown in the figure below). What does this mean for the Adirondacks this coming summer?  Monarchs were abundant in the Adirondack region in 2018, just as they had been decades ago, but 2021 will be a year of many fewer, just as it was in 2020 and most recent years.

Monarchs are in decline because of multiple threats throughout their life cycle: the loss of milkweed because of industrialized agriculture in their main midwestern breeding area; logging of the overwintering forests in Mexico; drought and loss of nectar sources due to climate change; and increasing severity of killing storms.

Recently the US Fish & Wildlife service declared monarchs to be “warranted but precluded” for listing under the Endangered Species Act. That decision is well explained at: It means that the federal government will take no actions for the time being to reverse this decline even though the current figure of 2.1 hectares is much below the estimated number of 6 hectares required to sustain monarch migration.

» Continue Reading.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Monarch butterfly update

monarch butterflyHere in the northeast we saw a lot of monarch butterflies, both adults and caterpillars, in the summer and fall of 2019, more than have been seen for many years.

That produced surprise and enthusiasm among observers, and the many sightings raised hopes that the 20-year decline in monarch numbers had slowed or even reversed.

But World Wildlife Fund-Mexico recently released the official count for this winter, and it showed a significant decline, not an increase; less than half as many butterflies were seen in Mexico this winter compared to the previous winter.  What happened? Why didn’t the numerous monarchs we saw throughout our region increase the abundance of the overall population?

» Continue Reading.

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