Monarch Butterflies Reared in Captivity Lack a Crucial Ability
Wild monarchs have faced a steep decline in recent decades, Ed Yong wrote in June. Some North American companies and hobbyists breed stocks of the insect, many with good intentions of bolstering the monarchs’ numbers. But according to a new study, monarchs raised in captivity tend to have poor migration skills, and so releasing them might do very little to save the imperiled monarch migration.
“As a species, it’s likely that the monarch will survive for a long time,” the leader of the study told Yong. “But this phenomenon that we all know and love—the migration—seems to be very fragile.”
As a gardener, I’ve planted milkweed for years to support the monarch migration through my neighborhood. In the past, I’ve been happy to watch the adults from a distance, but after reading of their declining number, I decided to do a little more to increase their chances of success. This is the first year I’ve invested in enclosures to help the caterpillars develop safe from the opportunistic parasites and bacterial infections that have been killing many of them before they can become butterflies.