Tom Emmel And The Monarch Butterfly
Tom Emmel is the Director of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the Museum of Natural History of the University of Florida, Gainesville.
Tom took his 40th trip to study the monarch butterflies at the Sierra Chincua Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, Angangueo, Mexico.
Tom took his first trip to Mexico to study the monarch butterflies in 1980. During that trip he visited the alpha site which was the first site monarch butterfly hibernation site discovered in 1976.
The monarch butterflies are studied because of their fascinating yearly migration from Canada and northern United States to Mexico each year, and being able to navigate to the destination without ever being there before.
The trip can be over 3000 miles long and take so long and one generation of butterflies wouldn’t be able to make the trip because they don’t live that long.
The butterflies must stop and breed along the way and the next generation of butterflies must continue the trip where the first generation left off.
They are able to accomplish this without ever visiting their destination before.
Monarchs are marveled because the beautiful and delicate butterflies make the yearly 3000+ mile migration across the United States in the hundreds of millions.
Unfortunately that number has been on a steady and disastrous decline, mainly because the natural food source monarch caterpillars feed on is being destroyed.
Milkweed is the natural feeding grounds for monarch butterflies, and without the milkweed the caterpillars are not able to sustain themselves.
There are several factors that are causing the destruction of milkweed, like climate change, but a major reason is the use of GMO crops whose pesticides efficiently kill milkweed.
Monarch numbers have been on the decline for the last fifteen years across the united States, which the most drastic drop-off in the last few years.
Typical monarch butterfly coverage in the forests of Mexico from 1994-2014 was 6.39 hectares. This was 10 times higher than the 2013 number, which was only 0.67 hectares.