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The migratory population of the monarch butterfly has reached an „ominous” low, researchers in Mexico announced Wednesday.
Scientists are attributing the decline of this essential pollinating population to the ongoing drought and the „explosive” increase in the use of genetically modified crops in the American corn belt.
„Because farmers have planted over 120 million acres of crops resistant to the milkweed-killing herbicide glyphosate, the monarchs’ essential food supply has been all but destroyed.”
Because of the difficulty in counting butterflies, scientists rely on measurements of the area that butterflies occupy to estimate their numbers; 1 hectare may contain as many as 50 million butterflies.
„The report of the dwindling Monarch butterfly winter residence in Mexico is ominous,” said leading entomologist Lincoln Brower.
However, the more „alarming” source of decline, according to Taylor and Omar Vidal, head of WWF in Mexico, is the „explosive increase” in the use of herbicide-tolerant genetically modified soybean and corn crops across America’s farmland which, the New York Times reports, has „enabled farmers to wipe out the milkweed,” on which monarch larvae feed almost exclusively.
“That habitat is virtually gone. We’ve lost well over 120 million acres, and probably closer to 150 million acres,” Mr. Taylor said.
Like bees, butterflies provide essential pollinating functions for entire ecosystems.”The fruits, nuts, seeds and foliage that everything else feeds on,” said Taylor. „If we pull the monarchs out of the system, we’re really pulling the rug out from under a whole lot of other species.”