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Susquehanna Life

Monarch Butterfly Facts

The monarch is the state insect of Alabama, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia. Legislation was introduced to make it the national insect of the United States, but this failed in 1989 and again in 1991.

An IMAX film, Flight of the Butterflies, follows the amazing journey of millions of real butterflies as they travel to a remote and secret hideaway, and scientist Dr. Fred Urquhart’s 40-year search to unravel the mystery of where they go.

We’ve learned that monarchs migrate to Mexican overwintering areas. Sanctuaries and reserves have been created at overwintering locations in Mexico and California to limit habitat destruction. These sites can generate significant tourism revenue.

The number of monarchs overwintering in Mexico has shown a long-term downward trend. Since 1995, coverage numbers have been as high as 44 acres during the winter of 1996–1997, but on average about 15 acres. Coverage declined to its lowest point to date (1.66 acres) during the winter of 2013–2014, but rebounded to 10 acres in 2015–2016.

The average population of monarchs in 2016 was estimated at 200 million. A 2016 study claimed that the long-term trend in the decreased size of overwintering sites is cause for concern. After a ten-fold drop in the overwintering numbers of the eastern monarch butterfly population over the last decade, this study claimed an 11 to 57 percent probability that this population will go quasi-extinct over the next 20 years.

Organizations and individuals participate in tagging programs. Tagging information is used to study migration patterns.

The 2012 novel by Barbara Kingsolver, Flight Behavior, deals with the appearance of a large population in the Appalachians.

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