Butterflies and the Environment: Saving the Monarch with Kestrel Weather Meters

Butterflies and the Environment: Saving the Monarch with Kestrel Weather Meters

As a large portion of the US experienced dangerously cold temperatures over the winter, we are all impacted by the arctic blasts. The existence of global warming is still (controversially) up for debate, but there is no denying that climate change affects the monarch butterfly population. Significant climate change can be dangerous---if not deadly---to this butterfly species. By monitoring environmental conditions, we can help the Monarch butterfly thrive for generations to enjoy.

The Plight of the Monarch Butterfly

As North America's most recognized butterfly and an iconic pollinator, the Monarch butterfly is a sensitive species. They can adapt to longer-term changes in climate, but they are vulnerable because they are highly sensitive to those climate changes. Monarchs depend on environmental cues---especially temperature---to trigger reproduction, hibernation, and migration.

Another factor of vulnerability is one of their main sources of food---the milkweed. Milkweed is the Monarch's host plant and it is also facing a declining population simultaneously to the Monarch. In fact, the Monarch's population has declined by 95% over the last 20 years.

The Great Monarch Migration

Each year, the Monarch butterflies migrate to warmer climates such as California or Mexico. They are one of the only insect species that migrate, especially such a considerable distance. It takes months, but eventually, the butterflies migrate from Mexico all the way through the Great Lakes region and Canada.

The Monarch's journey is carefully tracked by biologists and they are completely guided by temperature. It's essentially a biological trigger that tells them that it's time to migrate. Over the last several years, the Monarch's journey is delayed by as long as 6 weeks due to warmer-than-average temperatures. Once the butterflies sense the temperature change, their migration comes too late when temperatures plummet in the Midwest. This is when many Monarchs die on their way to migrating in the south.

Unfortunately, hotter and drier weather also contributed to the plummeting Monarch population. The conditions have become lethal for the larval stage of development.

How Can We Help?

Tracking temperature changes, providing food supply, and seeing that the Monarch butterflies have a warm place to survive the winter is critical. This species has very specific requirements for habitat, especially in terms of where they spend the winter.

Luckily, The Fiscalini Ranch Preserve on the central coast of California hosts a small population of overwintering butterflies in the Monterey pine forest. The ranch has implemented a program to monitor microclimatic conditions such as temperature, humidity, sunlight, wind speed, and wind direction.

The Fiscalini Ranch Preserve uses the Kestrel 5500 Weather Meter to track these various elements along with storm tracking. This allows quick and accurate monitoring of environmental conditions. The data is collected by-monthly at monitoring stations throughout groves where the butterflies stay for their wintering months. After data collection, it's summarized while helping to make future decisions for the groves and provide a stable environment for the butterflies.

Save Nature with Kestrel Weather Meters

Kestrel weather meters do a lot to help humans thrive, but let's not forget about other species that need our help. From butterflies to other animals struggling to adapt to climate change, count on the Kestrel 5500 Weather Meter for down-to-the-minute accurate weather tracking.

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