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LINCOLN — A long-term partnership between Lincoln College and Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History is focusing on plans to reverse the decline of monarch butterflies and other threatened pollinators.

Using Lincoln, Peoria and Carbondale as case studies, school and museum researchers are looking at ways to create monarch habitat in small and mid-sized cities, including resources, materials, guidance and support.

The partnership began last year when conservation biology majors surveyed Logan County to assess and document the existing pollinator habitat.

According to information from the Field Museum, monarch populations have declined by 80 percent over the past two decades, stemming in part from the loss of milkweed that serves as their food source for both the juvenile and adult life stage.

Every fall, millions of monarch butterflies migrate over 3,000 miles to Mexico for a safe place to spend the winter. Following winter, they migrate to areas like Texas, where they mate and lay their eggs on milkweed plants. After a few days, caterpillars hatch and consume the milkweed as a food source. The new butterflies fly another few hundred miles north before finding another patch of milkweed and repeating the process. It can take the butterflies upwards of five generations to complete the journey to Illinois.

Globally, 87 of the leading 115 food crops evaluated are dependent on animal pollinators such as monarch butterflies.

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