Every fall, millions of monarch butterflies east of the Rockies undertake a long migration (up to 3,000 miles) from points north to overwinter in Mexico.
In recent years, the population of monarchs has fallen precipitously, largely because of climate change and habitat loss.
But this year, there are positive signs that monarchs may be bouncing back.
Chip Taylor, an ecologist at the University of Kansas and the founder and director of Monarch Watch — an outreach program that does education, research and conservation work — told Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson conditions were favorable this spring for the butterflies' reproduction.
If we get the right weather conditions in the future, and if we restore enough habitat, we can bring this butterfly back.Chip Taylor
"The population is rebounding a bit," Taylor said. "We're expecting that there'll be anywhere from two to four times as many monarchs in the overwintering sites in Mexico as there have been last year. That's still not going to be a large number. That's still not going to mark a big recovery for the population. It's still going to be a very low population by historical standards. But it does show the butterfly has the capability of rebounding, and it gives us a little bit more hope that if we get the right weather conditions in the future, and if we restore enough habitat, we can bring this butterfly back."
Taylor says it's still too soon to tell whether this is an upward trend, because habitat is the determining factor for the population's recovery and sustainability. It's too soon to tell whether the uptick this year might just be a result of favorable weather conditions and not a long term trend that is a combination of favorable factors.
Taylor says 167 million acres of monarch butterfly habitat have been lost in the last 10 to 15 years.
"Habitats for pollinators have been going down, that includes honey bees," Taylor said. "It has to be at least four times as much as we have now. We need to restore a lot of habitat for both honeybees, other pollinators and monarch butterflies."
This segment aired on September 29, 2014.
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