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Monarch butterfly population on possible decline

The winter butterfly population of wintering Monarchs has been released and the numbers are alarming. There are two populations of Monarch butterflies that are monitored, one resides on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains and one to the west. The ones that live their lives to the eastern side of the Rockies, travels to Central Mexico each winter where coordinated counts are done to asses the health of the population of the species.

To maintain a sustainable consideration for this species, a count of 6 hectares (~21 million butterflies per hectare) is needed. The 2022-2023 year saw a total of 2.2 hectares, well below that total. The latest update that reflects 2023-2024 sees an even lower number of 0.9 hectares of Monarch butterflies.

There are many possible reasons for the lowered counts ranging from habitat loss, pesticides, and even drought.

The last several years, much of the state of Missouri and other bordering states have seen impressive spells of droughts. This means less nectars for this species to rely on before they migrate to their wintering grounds. Current drought conditions continue to persist across much of Mid-Missouri with moderate drought expanding south of Jefferson City.

The current February-April three-month precipitation outlook shows much of the eastern half of the united States seeing above average to near average precipitation totals. This would help provide some relief to the returning issues, but much of the region needs to see even more rainfall to return many of these ecosystems to the health at which is needed.

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Chance Gotsch

Chance Gotsch grew up just south of St. Louis and moved to Columbia to attend the University of Missouri to pursue a degree in Atmospheric Sciences.

His interest in weather begin as a child when he used to be afraid of storms.

Chance joined the ABC 17 Stormtrack Weather Team in February 2021. He is currently the weekday noon meteorologist.


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