The Monarch Butterfly

Impacts of Climate Change

What is Climate Change?

You have probably heard of the warming of the earth, a growing social concern since 1950, but how much do you really understand about the booming problem?

Climate change is caused by human emitted greenhouse gasses, such as CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Gasses like these are caused by burning off fossil fuels, which helps to heat up our houses and run our cars; and also some industrial manufacturing, raising mass amounts of livestock for our food supply, as well as landfills, and other man made chemicals, such as fertilizers. These gasses get caught in the atmosphere, and trap in the heat of the sun that usually gets reflected off of the Earth and out into space. Like being wrapped in a giant blanket, this creates excess heat in Earth's atmosphere, which, as you can probably guess, heats up the earth. The Earth's temperature is higher than ever, and so is the level of concern about it.

By why is warming temperatures a concern? The affects of climate change include rising ocean levels, increased drought and wildfires, extreme weather patterns, warmer global temperatures, and that's just a couple. Arctic species are losing their habitat, including polar bears and penguins. Birds are migrating later into the winter, and returning too early in the spring, and pests that usually get controlled during the winter survive and come back stronger than ever.


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What is a Monarch Butterfly?

A Monarch Butterfly, Danaue plexippus, is one of the most commonly known species of butterfly. As well as being picturesque for us, their bright and distinctive orange and black color is a warning sign to predators that they have poison attained from their main source of food, the milkweed plant. As well as milkweed, the monarch butterfly also drinks the nectar from red clover,alfalfa, and wild carrots. The monarch butterfly "drinks" it's food through a it's tongue, which is like a straw, so it's diet is limited to nectar. While eating, the monarch butterfly is a also a pollinator, making it's survival very important for the environment.

The monarch butterfly is a migratory animal, traveling from North America to Mexico twice every year. This 3000 mile journey takes four butterfly generations as they migrate to find suitable temperatures. As we all watch the butterflies come and go, a truly magnificent sight, so do it's predators, birds, small animals and large insects. The monarch butterfly is a near endangered species, and sanctuaries are being put in place to help the survival of these beautiful creatures. The sanctuaries are good places where butterflies stop as they follow the milkweed road, bringing with them a magnificent sight for us.

The Monarch Butterfly and Climate change

Now that you are an expert in climate change and monarch butterflies, you can probably guess the problem. Climate change is one of the top threats to the monarch butterfly's survival and habitat.

As mentioned before, the monarch butterfly is a migratory animal, moving south to Mexico in the fall and north to North America in the spring to find suitable temperatures and conditions to live. Climate change affects the temperature of their summer breeding ground and winter home, making them both hotter. This means that the monarch will have to move further north, possibly meaning that another generation would be needed to make the long journey, as well as making their home south unsuitable. This would upset the monarch's migratory pattern.The monarch butterflies also get "cues" from the weather that signalize important events, such as when to migrate and when to breed. When this is disrupted, the monarch butterflies not reproduce as much, leaving less butterflies for the great migration.

The monarch butterfly's main food source, the milkweed, is also temperature and rainfall dependent. If sudden droughts and spontaneous rainfalls hit, the milkweed will not grow, leaving less food for the monarch butterfly. Also, milkweed may not grow further north, where the monarch would have to migrate if the weather gets hotter. Similarly, due to strange weather, the monarch butterfly's habitat has been decreasing, and the corridor for it's migration has been closing in. So What can you do to help?

Simply planting a backyard garden with milkweed, box clover, or other flowers for the monarch butterflies would help the monarchs find suitable food sources, and possibly a place to stay. Help raise awareness about climate change and it's impact, and find out what you can do to stay green to save the planet. Also, support creating sanctuaries for the monarch, or support your nearby butterfly sanctuary. Finally, love the earth, because it's our home and the butterfly's home.


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