This year’s annual Monarch Butterfly Festival on Saturday showed the devastating effects of the decline in the Monarch Butterfly population caused primarily by pesticides and habitat destruction.
Entomologists and butterfly lovers will have to join together to protect the Monarch Butterfly and it’s migration process over the next few years.
Danielle Wolaver, a Florida A&M University Entomology student, explained to their exhibit’s onlookers how the monarch butterfly landed on entomologist’s ‘watch-list.’
“The milkweed is the only plant that they will lay their eggs on and it is their primary food source, but there are pesticides that are being sprayed on the Milkweed and it is killing the monarch butterfly in the larvae stage,” Wolaver said. “Habitat destruction is also another issue effecting the monarch butterfly because they are losing their breeding grounds.”
The loss of the milkweed and habitat destruction also threatens the monarch butterfly with predation and adverse weather.
The decline in the Monarch Butterfly has concerned not only Floridians, but also entomologist and butterfly admirers all over the country.
Amanda Rawstern, Emory University Entomology alumna, volunteered to participate in Emory University’s exhibit at the Monarch Butterfly Festival to educate festival goers on the decline in their population and what they can do to help.
“One of the major reasons for the decline is the loss of the milkweed plant,” Rawstern said. “We are trying to encourage people to buy and plant the native milkweed, instead of the non-native milkweed in their gardens to help restore their breeding habitat. They can go to a refuge gift shop, or to a history museum to buy the native Milkweed.”
Butterfly lovers who attend the annual Monarch Butterfly Festival have seen the significant decline in the butterfly over the years.
David Harder, vice-president of the Hairstreak North American Butterfly Association, attends the festival annually and has studied the butterfly throughout its migration process.
“There used to be far more at the festival. They’re expecting this to be a bad year. They’re not going extinct, but their migration process is in danger,” Harder said. “It’s a combination of the lack of milkweed and the winter grounds in Mexico becoming withered away by lodging. It would help if people would plant the Milkweed and if they didn’t mow the roadsides as much.”
Entomologists and butterfly supporters will work to protect and restore their habitats across North America.