Monday, December 14, 2009

Monarchs Vs. Beetles

I think my fascination with Monarch butterflies began at Pt. Pelee Provincial Park in Canada when along with my high school buddy, and future best man, John Harrison, I saw the trees along Lake Erie completely covered by thousands of Monarchs resting up for the migration across the lake on their way to Mexico.

Millions of the orange and black insects make this 2,800 mile trip, which is considered one of the globe's most extraordinary. But, this year, because of the worst drought in nearly 70 years, an infestation of bark beetles has struck the forest where they spend the winter.

Mexican authorities have identified many of the beetle-infested fir trees, and have raced to cut them down. The bark beetle has always been present in the forest, but because of drought, the volume of resin that acts as a natural defense is much lower than usual. Without the trees to house them, the butterflies are threatened by cold winter air and rains.

Bark beetle damage in forests isn't confined to Mexico. Forests across North America have been devastated, mostly because of drought. The authorities caught the beetle infestation early in Mexico (July) and hopes are that the butterflies will be largely unaffected this year. But scientists say this is only the beginning of a problem that could take several years to tackle.

The information in this blog is based on an article
in the Christian Science Monitor by Sara Miller Llana.

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