Each year my family and I make an incredible journey, up to 3000 miles, from Canada to our home in Sierra Chincua, Mexico. Our travels take us over hills and mountains, grasslands and deserts. Some of this land is becoming unsafe for us to cross due to deforestation, chemical spraying, and urban sprawl. Every year we hope that we can make it to our homeland in Mexico safely!
Monarch butterflies are in danger of losing both their summer and winter habitats. Summer habitats are destroyed as more roads and new housing developments and business complexes encroach upon open space in North America (a phenomenon known as urban sprawl).
As land is developed, milkweed is killed. This is the only source of food for monarch butterfly larvae once they hatch from their eggs. Milkweed plants are also vulnerable to herbicides used by farmers, homeowners, landscapers, and gardeners. Herbicides are poison substances used to inhibit weed growth in gardens, lawns, and fields.
The butterflies don't have it easy in Mexico, either. The ovamel trees that they winter in also serve as a lumber source for local communities and big logging companies. Logging not only removes the trees, it opens up the forest canopy. The overhead holes expose the butterflies to the elements, increasing the chance that they will die.
There are only about a dozen known wintering sites in Mexico. Each site (approximately 7.5 acres) contains millions of butterflies. Damage to even one site can spell catastrophe for the monarch butterfly population. Recent findings report that 44% of the ovamel forest has been damaged or destroyed by logging.