Doing his bit for the monarchy

Last updated 05:00 31/01/2014
Monarch butterfly
ROBERT CHARLES/ Fairfax NZ

CONSERVATIONIST: John Schumacher keeps an eye on one of the many caterpillars in his garden that will blossom into a beautiful Monarch butterfly.

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Monarch butterflies are under threat in North America, but in North Taranaki John Schumacher is doing his bit to preserve the graceful species.

Schumacher has so many caterpillars munching away on his swan plants he regularly moves them from one to plant to another, to ensure he has some plants left.

Last year caterpillars gobbled up all his plants and he had to go and buy some more, he said.

So, this time around he's talking precautions, moving them around, to ensure his plants survive being caterpillar lunch.

"The plants are swimming with caterpillars."

The process - from monarch butterflies laying eggs, to caterpillars, to chrysalis to monarch butterflies again - is very interesting to watch, he said.

Yesterday there were nine chrysalises under a bit of four by two timber in his backyard.

But in the United States, genetically modified crops and urban sprawl, extreme weather trends and the dramatic reduction of the butterflies' habitat in Mexico could end the monarchs' migration. Associated Press is reporting.

The stunning and little-understood annual migration of millions of North American monarch butterflies to spend the winter in Mexico is in danger of disappearing, experts say, after numbers dropped to their lowest level since record-keeping began in 1993.

Their report blamed the displacement of the milkweed the species feeds on by genetically modified crops and urban sprawl, extreme weather trends and the dramatic reduction of the butterflies' habitat in Mexico due to illegal logging of the trees they depend on for shelter.

After steep and steady declines in the previous three years, the black-and-orange butterflies now cover only 0.67 hectares (1.65 acres) in the pine and fir forests west of Mexico City, compared to 1.19 hectares (2.93 acres) last year, said the report released by the World Wildlife Fund, Mexico's Environment Department and the Natural Protected Areas Commission. They covered more than 18 hectares (44.5 acres) at their recorded peak in 1996.

Because the butterflies clump together by the thousands in trees, they are counted by the area they cover.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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