Crop Herbicides Play A Role In Shrinking Monarch Population

Visit one of these local butterfly sanctuaries before the monarchs fly away

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A butterfly being considered for federal protection is emblematic of the plight pollinating insects face partially because farmers enticed by ethanol mandates grow more herbicide-resistant crops.

Herbicide makers say they’re committed to boosting the population of monarchs, which have seen their numbers plummet by more than 90 percent in the past two decades.

Some populations migrate thousands of miles, across multiple generations each year from breeding and wintering grounds. But there’s less of the milkweed they depend upon to nourish them along the route because corn and soybeans that withstand herbicides are wiping it out. Logging, construction and a drought that peaked in 2012 also have harmed habitat.

Currently in California, February through the end of March marks the period when monarchs are leaving the California Central Coast after wintering since the beginning of November and mating mid-February near Valentine’s Day.

Locally, in Monterey County, The Monarch Sanctuary in Pacific Grove is a prime spot for seeing the butterfly clusters. Located at 250 Ridge Road off of Lighthouse Ave., the butterflies cluster high up in the trees at the sanctuary, and they can look like dead leaves to the untrained eye.

You can also find the butterflies clustering at Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz County. Call park rangers at 831-423-4609 to get the latest update on viewing information. Or in San Luis Obispo County, visit the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove considered as one of the largest monarch wintering sites in America.

At the aforementioned locations during the wintering season, docents offer information and answer questions.

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