SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — It is known as one of nature’s most fascinating natural events, the time when all monarch butterflies east of the Rocky Mountains flutter South to Mexico for winter hibernation.
Monarchs are known for their beautiful orange and black coloring, and the important job they serve as pollinators.
The butterflies begin to pass through Missouri in early October– flying in groups and within human eyesight. The monarch butterfly lifespan is only a year long, but the species know exactly where to fly when temperatures begin to drop. There are several theories as to how monarch butterflies find the communal spot, some involving magnetic fields, but none have been proven.
Despite the journey of a lifetime, the monarch population is in decline, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).
“The monarch population is in trouble, and it’s due to a lack of milkweed plants,” said Francis Skalicky with the MDC. “Herbicide use, habitat changes, and landscape changes have knocked back milkweed– and because of that, has knocked back the monarch populations.”
Experts say the monarch population has decreased by almost 90 percent due to the lack of their main food source. It is not too late for citizen science to help the issue. Planting milkweed in flowerbeds, gardens and fields could help the species bounce back.