MEXICO—Recent reports have shown that the number of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico is up, which seasonal Manitoulin resident Dr. Joe Shorthouse, professor of entomology and environmental biology at Laurentian University in Sudbury, said is a good sign and that Islanders can probably expect Manitoulin monarch numbers up as well this summer.
“I have been reading reports on Journey North that numbers are up dramatically in Mexico,” said Dr. Shorthouse. “The number overwintering in Mexico is three times higher than last year. There are an estimated 200 million monarchs this year, but that is still down from a peak of one billion. The clustering butterflies are covering four hectares of forest. The ideal size is six hectares, so we are well on our way.”
Dr. Shorthouse said the increased numbers this year are being attributed to favourable breeding conditions in the summer of 2015.
“If all goes well, we should be welcoming a population of monarchs back on Manitoulin in late May early June, depending on the weather,” said Dr. Shorthouse. “A couple years ago there were barely any, so this is great news.”
He explained that the monarchs hanging on the trees in Mexico aren’t the monarchs that will be making the trek across Lake Huron this summer.
“The monarchs in Mexico are starting to look for food and water and will then begin the magic of starting to fly north,” said Dr. Shorthouse. “They will come across milkweeds in the southern US in the spring and lay their eggs and then die. Their offspring will then make their way to Manitoulin to lay their eggs.”
Dr. Shorthouse stressed the importance of Islanders planting milkweed and butterfly-friendly flowers (rich with nectar) in their gardens to help welcome the monarchs.
“The monarchs that are born here are the ones that will make the journey all the way back to Mexico in the late summer,” he said. “And it will be their great, great grandchildren that return to Manitoulin the following year.”
“It will be very exciting to see what happens on Manitoulin this summer, “ Dr. Shorthouse added.
In addition to creating a monarch friendly garden, Dr. Shorthouse encourages Islanders to log onto Journey North (www.learner.org/north) and report the first monarchs sighted on Manitoulin, first milkweed, first monarch eggs and first monarch larva.
He said that all sightings are included on Journey North’s real-time maps that people can view to see the monarch migration.