California has 50 times more monarch butterflies than last year — a puzzling blip in their path to extinction

Butterflies land on branches at Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, California, on November 10, 2021.Nic Coury/AP Photo

  • Monarch butterflies migrating to California made a promising rebound from the edge of extinction.

  • California counted fewer than 2,000 monarchs in 2020. So far this year, there are more than 100,000.

  • The mysterious boom may be a blip in the monarch's decline, but buys time to save them from extinction.

Tens of thousands of monarch butterflies are flocking to the California coast for the winter, filling tree branches with fluttering orange wings — a remarkable rebound from years of near-extinction.

Millions of monarchs used to winter in California each year, but their numbers haven't breached half a million since the 1990s. In 2018, the population crashed to new lows: there were fewer than 30,000 monarchs in the state, according to a count that the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has conducted each winter since 1997.

The butterflies hit a devastating record low last year, numbering fewer than 2,000 across California.

“We were pretty concerned last year that we were potentially facing a reality where there would no longer be monarch butterflies in the Western US,” Sarina Jepsen, director of the endangered species program at the Xerces Society, told Insider.

So far this year, however, volunteers have counted more than 100,000 monarch butterflies. That tally is expected to grow as volunteers continue counting through December 5. The Xerces Society will publish its final report in January.

“We're really happy about those numbers,” Jepsen said. Still, she added, “this is not yet recovery of the Western monarch population.”

A lucky year for monarch butterflies may buy them time

A cluster of butterflies sit on a pine tree at Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, California, on November 10, 2021.Nic Coury/AP Photo

Though this is a hopeful resurgence, scientists don't know what's causing it and aren't sure it will last. Instead of a meaningful recovery, the uptick could be simple luck.

“It is not uncommon at all for any insect population to bounce around from year to year, to have pretty dramatic shifts in the size of its population,” Jepsen said.

Still, this year's explosion of butterflies could be a sign that it's not too late to pull monarchs back from the brink of extinction. The butterflies are one of nearly half a million insect species declining in the face of pesticides, habitat destruction, and climate change.

Scientists aren't sure what's making monarch populations so 'bouncy'

A monarch butterfly rests on a tree trunk in El Rosario Sanctuary in Mexico’s Michoacan state, on January 31, 2020.Rebecca Blackwell/AP Photo

Low butterfly populations can be especially “bouncy,” fluctuating greatly from year to year, biologists Emma Pelton of the Xerces Society, Elizabeth Crone of Tufts University, and Cheryl Schultz of Washington State University, explained in a blog post for the Xerces Society earlier this month.

Small populations mean individual butterflies aren't competing with each other for resources, the biologists wrote. If it's a good year for plants they eat, like milkweed, there's plenty to eat, and room for the population to boom. And because they can produce three or four generations per year, monarch populations can spike rapidly.

Scientists aren't sure which factors are driving this year's swell. They can only speculate for now.

It could be good weather in the monarch's breeding grounds across Mexico and California. Butterflies benefit from warm, dry summers, followed by cool falls. Or the boom could be linked to changes in the timing and location of California's wildfires, which might affect the butterflies' migration.

A third possibility could be an influx of Eastern monarchs joining the Western migration, although Eastern monarch populations are also declining, occupying 80% less forest than they did two decades ago, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

A brief relief from conditions that hurt monarch migration could also be fueling the swell. Scientists are studying whether pesticide use in California's Central Valley could contribute to monarchs' decline. They're also investigating “resident” monarchs that live in California year round, which some researchers suspect may spread parasites to migrating monarchs.

“With only one year of a population increase, it is impossible to say whether this is the population clawing its way back from the brink, or a blip in the continuation of the migration's decline. We won't know this until we have more years with either more or fewer monarchs,” the biologists wrote.

Monarchs have a long climb back from the edge of extinction

While this year's count is promising, it's still only half of what the Western monarch population was five years ago.

A chart shows the Western monarch butterfly population, as counted by the Xerces Society, each year since 1997.Center for Biological Diversity

The US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that there's a 99% chance that Western monarch populations will reach a point within 60 years where extinction is inevitable. For populations in the East, the probability of extinction inevitability in that time frame is roughly 74%.

This year's rebound doesn't necessarily improve those odds.

What would tip the odds in the monarch's favor is restoring their habitats, both in their Mexico breeding grounds and across California, Jepsen said. That involves planting more native wildflowers and milkweed, especially in state parks.

Reducing insecticide use along the butterflies' migration path in the Central Valley could also help, although scientists are still researching the effect the chemicals have on monarchs.

Money for pollinator preservation folded into President Joe Biden's $1 trillion infrastructure bill could help give monarchs a boost. Called the Monarch and Pollinator Highway Act, the legislation creates $10 million in grants for local governments to build pollinator-friendly habitats alongside highways and roads.

“There's a lot of work to do to recover the population,” Jepsen said, adding, “But these new numbers give us a bit of hope and a bit of time to implement some of these conservation actions.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

News Related

OTHER NEWS

Demystifying machine-learning systems

A new method automatically describes, in natural language, what the individual components of a neural network do. Read more »

Tragedy as two teenagers found dead at nature reserve

Two teenagers have been sadly found dead POLICE are investigating after two teenagers were found dead at a nature reserve. Officers were called to Bothenhampton Nature Reserve, Bothenhampton, near Bridport, ... Read more »

LA officials plead for public's help in solving killing of girl, 16, dumped on road

Court records indicate that Tioni Theus had been identified as a commercial sexual exploitation of children victim. Facebook / Tioni Theus California authorities are offering a $115,00 reward for information ... Read more »

Sussex PCs sentenced for assaulting handcuffed 14-year-old girl

Two police officers have been sentenced after assaulting a 14-year-old girl TWO Sussex Police officers have been sentenced for assaulting a 14-year-old girl while she was detained in handcuffs inside ... Read more »

Sue Gray: Joe Lycett releases parody report into Downing Street lockdown parties

Joe Lycett has offered up his own version of the Sue Gray report as the nation awaits her findings about Downing Street lockdown parties. Senior civil servant Gray is leading ... Read more »

ITV explains why Vera episode didn't air - as Brenda Blethyn shares exciting update

Picture: ITV/TWITTER TELLY bosses have explained why two further episodes of Vera did not air at the weekend as the show appeared to be replaced by a new series. Viewers ... Read more »

Meet the man who won a trip to space - and had to give it to a friend! Kyle Hippchen, 43, was forced to donate his ticket on board SpaceX's first tourist flight because he was too FAT

Kyle Hippchen won a raffle for a ticket to be part of SpaceX's Inspiration4 crewHowever, he discovered he exceeded SpaceX's 250lbs (113kg) weight limitHe donated his seat went to his college roomate, Chris Sembroski, 42  Read more »

Nearly 1,000 mysterious strands of magnetic filaments are discovered dangling 'inexplicably' at the heart of the Milky Way

The mysterious magnetic filaments were first spotted by astronomers in 1984However, new data has revealed that there are ten times more than was thought The larger population of strands will allow for new forms of statistical analysis The team said that each strand is made of electrons gyrating the magnetic field The strands may be connected to Milky Way's central supermassive black hole Read more »

Mysterious black diamond heads to auction

This mysterious black diamond is going to auction Location: Beverly Hills, California The 555.55-carat diamond is called ‘The Enigma’ as its origins are unknown Some say it’s possible the carbonado ... Read more »

These Are The Best (And Worst) Sleep Positions For Good Posture

. (Photo: Levitex/Getty) Do you wake up with a stiff neck or aching back? Your sleep position could be behind the problem. A whopping 82% of Brits are sleeping in ... Read more »

Pam & Tommy: The story behind the world's first celebrity sex tape

Baywatch star Pamela Anderson and Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee met on New Year’s Eve 1994 at the Sanctuary nightclub in LA. Two months later, after a four-day romance on ... Read more »

Maida Vale: Hero driver who mowed down killer ex-husband says he is being treated ‘like a criminal'

A man who drove into a stalker who was in the process of stabbing his ex-wife to death on the street says he is being treated like a criminal by ... Read more »

Boiler trick could save you £100 per month on bills amid UK energy crisis

Octopus Energy tip is saving people £100 per month on energy bills. (PA) A boiler trick that could save £100 per month on energy bills has been shared by a ... Read more »

Ukraine news - live: Five dead after soldier opens fire at military factory amid rising Russia tensions

A Ukrainian soldier killed at least five people and injured five others after opening fire on security guards at a military factory in the centre of the country, officials said ... Read more »

Ministers tell jobseekers to look for jobs in any sector after four weeks or face benefits sanctions

Work and pensions (PA) Universal credit claimants will be forced to search for jobs outside their preferred sector after just four weeks or face the prospect of sanctions, under a ... Read more »

Mark ‘The Beast' Labbett Apologises To The Chase Viewers After He Walks Off Show Following Defeat

Mark ‘The Beast‘ Labbett was defeated on the latest episode of The Chase. (Photo: ITV) Mark “The Beast” Labbett has apologised to viewers of The Chase after he walked off ... Read more »

CCTV footage shows final moments of Polish man before he was beaten to death

Tomasz Dembler‘s badly beaten and mutilated body was buried in a shallow grave in woodland JURORS have watched a compilation of CCTV footage showing the final movements of a Polish ... Read more »

Coronation Street star homeless as anti-vax views leave him without work

Sean Ward used to play Callum Logan on the ITV soap Coronation Street (PA) Former Coronation Street star Sean Ward has said he has been left homeless due to his ... Read more »

What happened after Michael Jackson's hair caught fire during a Pepsi advert

Paramedics wheel Michael Jackson into Brotman Memorial Hospital after being burned during the filming of a Pepsi commercial (Getty) This article is part of Yahoo's 'On This Day' series When ... Read more »

Wedding photographer shares all the sexist things men did to her in 2021

(iStock) A wedding photographer’s Instagram post has gone viral after she shared all the things men did and said to her at the events she photographed in 2021. Brighton-based Kim ... Read more »

Science ministry to set up Korean version of US DARPA

Science and ICT Minister Lim Hye-sook speaks in a press sit-down at the Sejong Finance Center on Thursday. (The Ministry of Science and ICT)The government will introduce the Korean version ... Read more »

Woman shares her weight loss secrets to dropping over 11st

Amy Woolliscroft lost an incredible 11st 6lbs in weight. (Collect/PA Real Life) A woman who turned to comfort eating after the breakdown of a relationship has now lost an incredible ... Read more »

Samsung reports robust profit based on chip strength

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Samsung Electronics Co. said Thursday its operating profit for the last quarter rose by more than 53% from the same period last year as it ... Read more »

Prince Andrew ‘selling £17m ski chalet to protect assets', Epstein victims' lawyer claims

Andrew bought the alpine lodge in 2014 (Getty/Shutterstock) A lawyer for victims of Jeffrey Epstein has said Prince Andrew might be selling his £17m alpine ski chalet in order to ... Read more »

BBC faces Ofcom probe after alleged 'misreporting' of anti-Semitic incident

The BBC has faced mounting criticism over its coverage of an incident last month, in which Jewish teenagers celebrated Chanukah in Oxford Street – Leon Neal /Getty Images Europe The ... Read more »

Road to net zero will cost trillions a year, report says

White smoke pouring out of the chimneys of the power plant. Trillions of dollars need to be spent every year for almost three decades to hit net zero targets, according ... Read more »

Asian American suing San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin over alleged mishandling of racial attack

Anh Lê was attacked two years ago by a father and son who were later apprehended and offered a plea deal without Lê’s knowledge. NBC Bay Area An Asian American ... Read more »

Government publishes Bill to make some pandemic powers permanent

MSPs will debate the legislation to make some powers permanent at Holyrood (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Archive) The Scottish Government has published a Bill which would make some of its emergency ... Read more »

Islamic State fighters surrender after British and US special forces help reclaim Syrian prison

Fighters of the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) escort two IS members who surrendered near Ghwayran prison in Hassakeh, northeastern Syria – EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/Ahmed Mardnli Hundreds of Islamic State (IS) jihadists have ... Read more »

Your pay rise will be scrapped unless National Insurance hike is cancelled

Britain’s Chancellor Rishi Sunak gives a press conference about the ongoing situation with the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak inside 10 Downing Street on March 17, 2020 – Getty Images Europe Employers ... Read more »

This could be the moment the establishment finally takes down Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson faced PMQs on Wednesday afternoon as the country awaits the highly anticipated partygate report – UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor Has the establishment finally decided to move against Boris Johnson? ... Read more »

Netflix's biggest mistakes: 10 costly shows that disappeared without trace

Shows including Jupiter’s Legacy, Gypsy and Marco Polo all got the unceremonious axe from Netflix – Netflix Netflix finds itself in a bit of a fix, with its steadily declining ... Read more »

Immersive video game explores the history of women at MIT

"A Lab of One’s Own" invites players to engage with archival materials in a virtual environment. Read more »

Deploying machine learning to improve mental health

MIT scientist Rosalind Picard collaborates with clinicians to develop tools for mental health care delivery. Read more »

Hot stuff: Fusion power milestone reached

Researchers said Wednesday they were able to spark a fusion reaction that briefly sustained itself. The ultimate goal, still years away, is to generate power the way the sun generates heat. Read more »

A nudge to resume economic activity

MIT experiment finds people will respond to cues from neighbors about activities and risk preferences. Read more »

Out-of-control homophobe spits menacing threats at judge as he's sentenced to jail

A man who hurled homophobic abuse and spat at police officers threatened to burgle a judge as he was sentenced. Christopher Tweed, a 35-year-old from the southeast town of Chatham, ... Read more »

Prince Andrew asks for trial by jury as he denies all Virginia Giuffre sex assault claims

1 / 3Andrew Virginia Giuffre Prince Andrew has asked for a trial by jury as he officially responded to Virginia Giuffre's sexual assault lawsuit. Court documents filed in New York ... Read more »

U.S., NATO Deliver Responses to Russian Demands: Ukraine Update

(Bloomberg) — The U.S. delivered a written response to Russia on the crisis in Ukraine, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying it sets out “a serious diplomatic path forward” ... Read more »

Can humans regrow limbs? A lab study with frogs offers hope

Scientists used a combination of a drug cocktail and specialized wearable bioreactor, with frogs regrowing legs that could be used to stand and swim.  Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic