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Bits & Pieces: Monarchs in trouble

Ann Welch ann4plus1@yahoo.com
Ann Welch ann4plus1@yahoo.com

The beautiful monarch butterfly is in real danger. Milkweed, the plant the monarch depends on for survival, is being destroyed by potent new herbicides. Milkweed is the only plant the monarch lays its eggs on, so disappearance of milkweed will pose a great threat to the butterflies. Less than 20 years ago an astounding 1 billion monarchs migrated to Mexico for the winter. This year only 33.5 million survived to make the journey.

The Natural Resouces Defense Council (NRDC) reports that industrial agriculture firms are marketing a new generation of herbicides such as glyphosate, marketed as Roundup by Monsanto. The Environmental Protection Agency must put tough new restrictions on weed killers such as Roundup that are killing vast numbers of monarchs. Limiting Big Ag’s use of herbicides like Roundup could dramatically increase the monarch’s survival chances.

Monarch migration is a true natural wonder. The butterflies travel 3,000 miles across the United States and Canada to a few wintering grounds in Mexico, such as the Sierra Madre mountains. Monarch populations are plunging because genetically engineered crops are more resistant to herbicides such as Roundup. Larger amounts of the herbicides are used to counter higher resistance to them by crop plants. Milkweed plants would be considered collateral damage to higher applications of Roundup, and as they die off so will the monarchs because the only plant they have to lay their eggs on is being eradicated.This is the ninth consecutive year that populations of wintering monarchs has fallen below its long-term average. This year it hit an all-time low.

Why should we care about monarch populations? The monarch is one of our most beautiful butterflies. It is beautiful in all stages of its life–the caterpillar with its black, yellow, and white stripes, the lovely pale green chyrsalis with its metallic gold spots, and the orangy and black adult. If you want to help save the monarch, express your opinion to the Environmental Protection Agency about the excessive use of the herbicide Roundup. Whenever I hear the word Roundup I think of the television commercials where the man is spraying the weeds in the cracks in his driveway and/or sidewalks. Are we so lazy we can’t pull the weeds out rather than spraying poison on them? We already introduce far too many toxic agents into our environment–eliminatingRoundup would be one way to help save the monarch from extinction.

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