Monarch Butterflies and Climate Change

The Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival, which began Thursday at the Instituto Cultural de México, continued through Friday evening with a symposium on the relationship between the Monarch Butterfly migration and climate change. The festival will conclude Saturday at the Pearl with a parade, a butterfly release, and more.

Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, joined Michoacán-based forester and researcher Cuauhtémoc Sáenz Romero, citizen scientist and conservation specialist Cathy Downs, and Texas Butterfly Ranch founder Monika Maeckle onstage for the discussion. Maeckle also is founder of the Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival. The panel was moderated by Dan Goodgame, Vice-President for Executive Communications at Rackspace.

Monarchs are under threat due to many different factors, primarily those created by humans. Pesticides like neonicotinoids, which are suspected as largely responsible for honeybee die-offs are also responsible for killing other insects like butterflies. Glyphosate, a compound found in Roundup, is a potent herbicide that can seriously hurt milkweed and other plants that Monarchs rely on as a food and breeding ground.

Climate change is a “threat multiplier” for these risks, according to Hayhoe. It adds additional stresses that make each other problem more threatening for the butterflies.

“What is the consequence of doing nothing?” someone in the audience asked Maeckle, during the question and answer session. Maeckle responded with humble passion.

“The species may survive, but besides the loss of pollinators in the ecosystem, we may lose a real marvel that we can witness every year,” she said. “I want my grandchildren to be able to experience this. Is it a vanity to want to see something this majestic and beautiful? I don’t know. But I think it’s important.”

Hayhoe put it in different terms. “If we continue on the path of our current fossil fuel use, we will see 30% of all species on the planet gone by the end of the century.

“Without a doubt, the butterflies can adapt if they have the time,” Hayhoe added. “The question is if they can change within the time that they have to because of climate change. Some ask, ‘Are we trying to interfere in nature?’ The answer is yes, but we are already interfering. Taking action to help may be the only way that the Monarch migration survives in the time they have been given.”

Read more, at the Rivard Report.