SUNNYSIDE — Butterfly enthusiasts may have seen plenty of yellow Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies this past summer.
“However, it is unlikely anyone saw a real Monarch Butterfly, known for its distinct orange color,” announced Dr. David James, a Washington State University Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center entomologist, who has spent years researching and tracking the colorful butterfly and its migratory habits.
“If you saw a butterfly with a white WSU tag on its wing, then you saw one of the four Monarch Butterflies spotted in Washington State this year,” he explained.
Speaking to the Sunnyside Noon Rotary, Monday, Oct. 21, Dr. James said the declining patches of milkweed, one of the butterfly’s favorite sources of nectar and declining nesting areas in Western United States are in part, responsible for the near extinction of the popular pollinator.
He said the Monarch is slated to be added to the Endangered Species list in December 2020, noting its population has been on a steady decline since 1997. “In 2016, there was a reported 95 percent decline in its population, he reported.
“Due to the increased use of herbicides in southern California, where the Monarch typically lays its eggs, there are fewer areas for nesting ,” he stated.
In the meantime, fellow entomologists continue to seek ways to prevent its total disappearance.
Dr. James said the Prosser IAREC center is now tagging the monarch when sighted in Washington.
“We have people who call us where they spot the tagged butterfly and about the surrounding environment,” he added.
“We track where the butterfly travels to and where it winters,” he explained.