A letter to President Barack Obama, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper urging protection for the monarch butterfly was delivered to the leaders at this week’s North American Summit in Mexico. Co-authored principally by Ernest Williams, the William R. Kenan Professor of Biology and Sweet Briar Professor Emeritus Lincoln Brower, the letter was signed by 18 leading butterfly scientists.
Titled “Decline of the Monarch Butterfly Migration in Eastern North America,” the letter asked the three leaders to commit to restoring the habitat that supports the insect’s extraordinary migration across the continent and to plant milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s only food source, along its migratory route in Canada and the United States. The leaders met in the Mexican city of Toluca, about an hour’s drive from the volcanic mountains where the butterflies winter after flying thousands of miles. This year’s monarch migration area was the smallest in 20 years of recordkeeping, leading observers to conclude that the number of monarchs is also very low.