The 2013-14 eastern monarch butterfly numbers are inconceivably awful. Horribly, terribly, awful. The population declined significantly beyond even last year’s dismal showing. Essentially, the eastern migratory population is collapsing.
The monarch butterfly is an iconic insect. It is the standard butterfly, frequently modeled for logos, costumes, and symbols. Children across the continent raise the caterpillars, and for many young people, monarchs are their first meaningful contact with arthropods. These insects are as culturally significant as they are ecologically. If something isn’t done soon and done big, the monarch migration will go the way of other animals with which it used to share the prairies- the herds of bison, the passenger pigeon.
I don’t have many photographs of monarchs. A few bland shots of larvae, a handful of adults on flowers. I never felt any urgency. They were as common as dirt. I just sort of assumed monarchs would always be around to photograph later.