Have you seen a Monarch Butterfly this summer? Few have. The iconic butterfly and the only one in North America that migrates to the warmer climes of Mexico has been missing, not just here, but literally everywhere! What is going on?
The cooler than normal spring combined with the months of above normal rain cannot explain their disappearance since they winter in the mountains of Mexico. And while their wintering grounds; high elevation forests of Durango State of Mexico are always under threat, their sudden disappearance of vast areas of North America is not easily answered.
Over the years, Populations of critters tend to decline and increase and fluctuate depending upon a whole range of factors. For example, scientists will say that our late season flight of butterflies, dragonflies and other insects were tied to the extended period of cold and rain this spring. But, that cannot explain the recent downward trends on the loss of bees.
A whole range of causes are being attributed to the loss of many species of bees. In 2007, the varroa mite which carries the Israeli acute paralysis virus was considered a main contributor to the decline. Another one of the possible contributors for the decline could be the chemicals found in new age pesticides and fungicides. These chemicals don't kill the bees outright, but damage their development and navigational skills. Recently, Europe announced a ban for a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, considered by many to be a critical culprit in honeybee deaths, but the products such as Rodeo, Roundup and similar brands are extremely popular from home owners to the agricultural industry. The US government has made no moves to ban them.
What about cell phones? A CNET UK report published in 2011 cited that cell phones pay a major role in the decline of bees. Research at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology found that bees are distressed by the frequencies and sound waves caused by cell phones. Some suggest that long term exposure to cell phone frequency may contribute to bee colony collapse. Already the Franklin’s Bumblebee of Oregon and California is likely extinct with the handsome Rusty patched Bumblebee of the Eastern United States declining rapidly; a staggering 87% of their global population is gone.
The trouble is that losing our biodiversity values (the sum total of species of plants and animals) such as the bees and butterflies will have a serious impact on us. Pollination, the act of exchanging pollen from one plant to another by insects and animals allows for those plants to germinate and re-produce. That ritual of nature is the main reason we have a bounty of crops that provide us with plentiful fruits and vegetables which we take for granted. But honeybees, bumblebees, butterflies and other insects need the plants to feed. As a society, we are short changing ourselves, if we spray unwanted weeds and grasses simply because it is convenient.
From the regal Monarch Butterfly to the elegant Rusty Bumblebee and to all of the other beneficial insects in between that flutter and buzz in and out of our lives daily, we can no longer take them for granted. The day may come soon that glancing at flowers will be devoid of the buzzes and flutter that we have become accustomed to. Therefore, we must be noble in fostering awareness on how we may protect these graceful and important insects from disappearing. We cannot afford to lose nature’s nobility.