Montréal, QC – A national-scale study of monarch butterfly
Monarch butterfly. Image credit: Espace pour la vie (Andre Sarrazin)
breeding habitats is being conducted by the Insectarium, the Institut de recherche en biologie végétale (IRBV), the Université du Québec à Rimouski, the University of Ottawa and the University of Calgary.
The three-pronged research project is aimed at determining whether the availability of milkweed and breeding sites are limiting monarch reproduction in Canada. The researchers studied the geographic distribution of monarchs and their host plant, milkweed using advanced technology to map the distribution of the butterflies and their host plants.
The most challenging part of the study is still ahead, and the researchers are reaching out to Canadians in a novel way. The phase of the study includes identifying the key monarch breeding areas in Canada by inventorying eggs, caterpillars, pupae and butterflies in natural habitats across the country. Given the vast territory to cover, the researchers are now calling on Canadians to get out and help collect this priceless data, to optimize efforts to re-establish migratory monarch populations.
Protecting monarch breeding habitats
“The Government of Canada is proud to support citizen science initiatives like the Mission Monarch project,” said Catherine McKenna, minister of environment and climate change. “Canadians are invited to join in this initiative to help monarch conservation. In fact, Environment and Climate Change Canada will be implementing this initiative in our protected areas within the monarch breeding range in Eastern Canada. We have supported actions benefitting pollinators, including monarch butterflies, with funding of approximately $3.8 million over three years including funding for essential research on monarch habitat in Canada
Monarch caterpillar. Image credit: Espace pour la vie (Andre Sarrazin)
This major project, with $216,000 in three-year funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada, is being directed by Maxim Larrivée, section head, entomological collections and research at the Montréal Insectarium. A number of respected researchers in this field are co-investigators on the project: Jeremy Kerr, from the University of Ottawa, Dominique Berteaux, from UQAR, and Paul Galpern, from the University of Calgary, who are all associated with the Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP) for Species at Risk.
Starting this month, science, butterfly and nature buffs and other members of the public across the country are being asked by the experts to get out and look for milkweed plants, then to share their findings on the Mission Monarch website.