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Monarch butterfly population at risk due to recent winter weather

Monarch butterflies play an important role in our ecosystem.

TEXAS, USA — Longtime butterfly enthusiast Dr. Craig Wilson said that in 1996, there was a high of about 1 billion Monarch butterflies. Unfortunately, recent estimates show 105 million Monarchs for 2021, down from 141.5 million in 2020 and 300 million in 2019.

"I think we have to be optimistic," said Dr. Wilson.

There was a Monarch population decline to 34 million in 2013-2014, but if you look at average numbers each year from 1994-2004, it came out to about 275 million. If you average the number from 2004 each year to 2020 it's about 165 million.

"These individual numbers don't mean as much if you average them over a time period," said Dr. Wilson, "recovering from 34 million in 2014 is pretty good."

Dr. Wilson said the main way people can help out the Monarch butterflies when they migrate this year is to replant as many milkweed plants as you can.

"A tropical milkweed is not a native, we would prefer people to plant natives but they’re in short supply," Dr. Wilson said, "but you can actually get this tropical milkweed, very popular, grows very easily."

If the Monarchs are unable to lay their own eggs on a milkweed plant, they die.

"We don’t want it [the milkweed plant] to be here in the fall when the monarchs are migrating through." he said. "We don’t want milkweeds in the fall because we don’t want to stop migrating to lay eggs, we need milkweeds for the spring."

Dr. Wilson said you can cut milkweed plants and stick the cut parts in a jar of water. When done, you can leave the plant in the jar of water inside during the cold weather.

By the time it's spring again, the milkweeds you saved should have sprouted roots so you can replant them for the Monarchs.