GREENSBORO, NC (WGHP) – The effort to keep the nearly extinct monarch butterfly alive is getting a boost from the city of Greensboro.
Monarchs, those orange-and-black beauties that have iconic status across North America, are battling a slide toward extinction that has seen the population decline by an estimated 99% over the past half-century.
Monarchconservation.org reports that the monarch population actually increased by 35% during the 2021-22 season, as measured in Mexico where the eastern monarch migrates during the winter. In California, where the western monarch spends its winters, the decline has fallen from around 1.2 million in the 1990s to less than 2,000 in 2020. reports the Center for Biological Diversity.
The population count in Mexico was only 29,418 observed butterflies, which is about 1% of the number recorded in 1980.
But the eastern states represent about 99% of the population of these butterflies in North America, and the monarch migration pattern brings them through North Carolina. Some of them fly up to 3,000 miles, biologists say.
Biologists said that in 2019 about 300 million of them passed through on their return from Mexico, but in 2020 that figure had fallen to 141.5 million.
That’s where the City of Greensboro comes in. Mayor Nancy Vaughan on Thursday signed the National Wildlife Federation’s Monarch Commitment of Mayorsjoining a network of cities that are committed to helping save the population of these butterflies.
The city’s parks and recreation department will plant more milkweed and native plants to create more habitats for pollinating insects, like the monarch butterfly, the city said in a statement.
Monarchs help pollinate plants, and monarch caterpillars lay their eggs exclusively on the leaves of milkweed plants. There are six varieties of milkweed in the eastern United States But the loss of these natural habitats to the development and expansion of herbicides accelerated the decline of the speciesexperts say.
The city will expand plantings in the gardens of the Downtown Greenway, Greensboro Arboretum, Keeley Park Community Garden and Price Park and raise awareness of the need for native habitats. The city says the Arboretum’s Butterfly Garden, which is a joint project with Greensboro Beautiful, is a certified monarch walkway station and includes interpretive panels to educate the public.
The Greensboro Science Center has its new Cole Family Butterfly House and Monarch Conservation Project which allows visitors to interact with monarchs and other species.
“The City of Greensboro and our community partners have already taken steps to increase the natural habitat for pollinators at our facilities,” Greensboro Parks and Recreation Department Director Nasha McCray said in the release announcing the new effort. . “We look forward to working with our colleagues and neighbors to expand this habitat throughout the city.”
Patrick Fitzgerald, senior director of community wildlife at the National Wildlife Federation, said in the statement that such municipal efforts “play a pivotal role in advancing monarch butterfly conservation in urban and suburban areas.”
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