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National effort to plant milkweed aims to rebuild monarch butterfly population

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Population has gone from high of 1 billion (1996) to 55 million last year

Story by Eric Adler, The Kansas City Star    Read full story

(Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch, a Kansas Biological Survey program, is a major source for this story.)
 

Every summer for 18 years, Alan Branhagen has driven north from Kansas City up Interstate 35 into his native Iowa, keeping his eyes peeled for the color orange.

Maybe if he were looking for traffic barrels he would have found greater joy.

Instead, the director of horticulture at Powell Gardens has found himself in the disheartening habit of trying to spot the fluttering orange wings of monarch butterflies, whose yearly migration between Mexico and Canada has captivated both scientists and nature lovers for generations.

A few years ago, Branhagen said, he often counted a half-dozen or more butterflies every mile on their journey north.

“Over the last two years, instead of seeing seven or eight per mile,” he said this week, “it is per 100 miles.”

That the loss of habitat from agriculture, herbicides and development has caused the monarch population to be decimated over the last two decades — going from an all-time high of 1 billion in 1996 to about 55 million last year — has become a familiar story.

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