Loss of habitat, milkweed cited in fall of monarch butterflies

By Rick Wills, Trib Total Media

As many as 50 people could attend the monarch butterfly tagging event on Saturday in Moraine State Park. Yet the group will be lucky if it tags a single one, park officials say.

“They are just not around the way they used to be. I have probably only seen five this year, and I look for them all the time. Years ago, there were so many more,” said Stephanie Taylor, an educator at the park.

The population of monarch butterflies has declined 90 percent in the past two decades, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group that blames the decline on herbicides and the planting of genetically engineered crops in the Midwest, where monarchs once thrived. The butterfly is a pollinator, though not as important as honeybees, whose numbers are falling sharply as well.

Last month, the biodiversity center, the Center for Food Safety, the Xerces Society — another environmental group — and monarch scientist Lincoln Brower petitioned the federal Fish and Wildlife Service to declare monarch butterflies an endangered species.

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