Ontario residents can expect to see fewer monarch butterflies in the province this year, since the spring’s higher-than-usual rainfall and colder temperatures delayed the monarch’s journey north.
“I think normally you would expect to see something two to three times what you’re probably going to see this year,” Chip Taylor, the director of Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas, told the CBC.
But it wasn’t just Canada’s cool spring climate that affected the migration. Taylor noted that the amount of rain Texas and Oklahoma received also played a part in delaying the monarchs’ long journey north from Central Mexico.
Vic Bernyk, owner of Native Trees and Plants Nursery in Amherstburg, about 30 kilometres south of Windsor, specializes in butterfly habitat and says that the monarch decline is also caused by loss of native habitat, which has been well known and reported on for years now. Milkweed plants, in particular, have decreased over time due to pesticide use. These plants are crucial to the population’s survival, as they’re the only place that monarchs will lay their eggs. They’re also the main food source for monarch caterpillars.
To increase the amount of milkweed available to monarchs, a butterfly trail is being built in Leamington, Ontario, to help boost the species’ population. Several organizations are also urging gardeners and property owners to plant milkweed to help save the black and orange butterflies.