Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Outdoors: Monarch butterfly’s decline should be a sign


By Glenn Ayers / Times-News correspondent
Posted Oct 27, 2018 at 9:06 PM
As per annum, the monarch butterflies are on their migratory move to Mexico.
Accompanying them this year is their champion, Lincoln Brower, with a flight of angels singing him to his rest. He passed away in July at age 86.
Brower, the leading authority on this species, is world-renowned for his work in the field. A biology professor at Sweet Briar College, he wrote his PhD dissertation on butterflies, and has worked steadily to understand and resist the monarch’s decline in numbers.
He well understood the mysterious migration of the monarchs, never discovered until 1976, when the mountain peaks were located that held millions on millions of the fliers wintering in fir trees. They are parents and grandparents (no single one does the full odyssey) of the monarchs that began their fall journey from as far away as the Canadian Atlantic provinces and proceeded to Mexico — 3,000 miles away.
In spring, they will head back north.
How? Brower could only answer, “If you’ve ever looked inside of the brain of this butterfly, it’s about the size of a pinhead, and yet the mini-computer inside that pinhead has all the necessary information to get them to Mexico without having been there before.”
The key to the miracle is food for the journey. Though they feed on goldenrod, lilacs and thistle, their survival depends on milkweed which is the only food for their caterpillars. This plant’s destruction from herbicides, pesticides and maybe climate change, has caused a 90 percent decline in monarch populations during the last 20 years.
Brower spent much of his life dedicated to the preservation of this species, from fighting chemical killers and agricultural clean-field measures, to protecting Mexican fir trees. Why?
He saw the monarch’s free fall as a warning sign of something larger.
“The monarch is whispering to us that things aren’t quite right,” he said. “Bio-diversity has to have a chance. Otherwise, we will eliminate ourselves in the process. That’s a pretty strong statement, but I believe it’s true.”

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