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The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Hope on Four Wings

Posted by Wells Reserve Contributor | August 3, 2015

Empty Chrysalis

Sometime between this past Friday evening and Saturday morning, the copper beech tree chrysalis shell was abandoned, and a monarch took to the sky! This monarch will most likely continue the northward path of its parents — monarchs take 3-4 generations to reach their northernmost extent in the summer migration. Perhaps the offspring of this monarch will make the journey, over 2,000 miles, to the same branches of oyamel fir trees of Mexican mountains that their great-great grandparents overwintered on last year.

The size of the monarch colonies in Mexico measured an area of 1.13 hectares this year, up 69% from the record low population last year. Yet this year was still one of the lowest populations ever recorded. The population stood at close to a billion just 25 years ago, while today some scientists estimate as few as 33 million remain. The causes of the declines have been historically blamed on illegal logging in the Mexican forests. Yet the U.S. is now home to the greatest threat. The monarch’s main source of food and sole egg-laying site, the milkweed plant, has been decimated in recent years from pesticide use and industrial agricultural practices. This gives our nation the opportunity and responsibility to improve the future prospects of the monarch.

Each vacant chrysalis is a sign of hope. Looking across a sea of milkweed, two monarchs flutter round each other, their clementine wings illuminated by the sun.

Monarchs in flight

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