Drought Diminishing Monarch Butterflies

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota is getting drier.

Nearly 63 percent of the state is now rated as abnormally dry or in a drought, according to the U.S. Drought monitor.

That’s up nearly 9 percent from last week.

The southwest corner of the state and a portion of south-central Minnesota are the worst hit areas, but even the Twin Cities metro area is now rated abnormally dry.

The drought conditions are especially hurting a part of nature that many of us likely haven’t thought about. There are far fewer butterflies fluttering through your garden, if any at all.

Gardeners have seen the effect of the drought all summer.

“It’s yellowing because it’s lacking water,” says University of Minnesota Master Gardener Ann Hutchins as she points at some milkweed.

The Monarch butterfly population is now fluttering.

“There’s not as many as I would like to see,” Hutchins said.

Biologist Karen Oberhauser with the University of Minnesota says it started in the spring.

“The milkweed is of lower quality, and that’s what caterpillars eat,” Oberhauser said. “Then flowering plants never produced enough nectar for the adults to eat.”

Butterflies will now face even more drought as the adults try migrating south.

“What we hope is that they’ll be able to rebound in another year,” Oberhauser said.

Next spring experts say you should plant milkweed and nectar rich flowers, like black-eyed susan’s.

If you want to watch the journey of the Monarch, the University of Minnesota provides a number of links year-round at this website.

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