monarch butterflies in snow Butterflies that didn't survive the harsh weather. la voz de michoacán/enrique castro

Snow and cold takes toll on monarchs

As many as 11 million butterflies might have died

The beleaguered monarch butterflies can’t get a break. The numbers that arrived in Mexico for the winter were up, but cold weather has killed as many as 11 million in the last few days, according to one report.

At the El Rosario sanctuary in Michoacán, where winter storm No. 11 brought 35 centimeters of snow and temperatures that plunged to -12 C, they say about 1.5 million butterflies have died.

Rosario spokesman Homero Gómez González was able to see the monarch deaths in a positive light. He pointed out that the majority had survived despite snowfall levels that hadn’t been seen in 40 years.

However, the National Protected Areas Commission said its inspection of the monarchs’ reserve revealed that the butterflies had resisted the effects of cold, snow and wind.

Conflicting reports should not be surprising considering the conflicts that evidently exist between the local stewards of the butterfly reserve and government agencies.

Gómez González said government representatives show up to have their photos taken and to justify their salaries, “yet in reality we receive nothing in the way of support. Proof of that is that we ourselves have reforested the areas [affected by logging].”

For government functionaries, he charged, “it’s pure bureaucracy.”

The butterflies, which migrate annually from the United States and Canada, were up in numbers this year after steady declines for several years. Numbers are estimated by the area they cover, which this year is about four hectares, up from 1.13 last year.

But two decades ago they covered as much as 20 hectares.

This year’s coverage of four hectares has been estimated to represent at least 100 million butterflies. Loss of habitat in the U.S. and Mexico has been blamed for the declining population.

Source: El Universal (sp)

Reader forum

The forum is available to logged-in subscribers only.