Quebec entomologists concerned about Monarch butterfly populations

Watch: Montreal Insectarium’s entomologist on Monarch butterflies

MONTREAL – There has been a dramatic drop in Monarch butterfly populations in Quebec and it’s becoming a worrying problem across North America.

“We’ve never seen anything this bad,” said a Montreal Insectarium’s entomologist, Maxim Larrivée.

“If you were to ask me last year if there was a possibility of a whole summer without seeing a Monarch, I would have said it was impossible.”

Severe weather events last year in the United States, including one of largest droughts in history, have decimated the Monarch population.

As Monarchs emigrated from Quebec to Mexico, the drought meant that there were fewer opportunities for food en route, and fewer butterflies that arrived in Mexico for the winter.

Read more: ‘Ominous’ drop in Monarch butterfly numbers in Mexico, experts say

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The butterflies are also much weaker.

“They have less energy and they’re having a harder time finding their host plant to lay eggs on,” said Larrivée.

As a result, there are very few Monarchs this year – and a very real possibility that we could go through the entire summer without seeing even one of the butterflies.

“Normally we have hundreds of millions of Monarchs in Quebec and Eastern Canada, and now we have 90 per cent of that at least,” noted Larrivée.

“It’s a tragedy.”

What can be done to help create a welcoming environment for the Monarchs?

By planting milkweed and flowering plants, Montrealers can help to create what the Montreal Insectarium describes as a ‘Monarch oasis.’

To find out more about building a Monarch oasis, click here.

The Insectarium is also encouraging Quebecers to report when they see a Monarch. By sharing butterfly sightings, it will help scientists to follow the butterfly populations.

“We can have a good idea of the numbers of Monarchs that are here and where they are,” he said.

“So that, in collaboration with our colleagues in the United States, we can really manage this situation as best as possible to help the Monarch population.”

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To report a butterfly sighting, click here.

Butterflies are considered “champions of adaptation,” so as a species, they quickly adapt to changing environmental conditions.

But what is most worrying for entomologists is that if butterflies are having trouble adapting to climate change, then it may be even more challenging for other animals and insects.

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