Monarch Flutterbys

BEVERLY – Last week’s 243 Fire torched over 20,000 acres in northwestern Grant County during its brief lifespan, but it also may have produced some long-term impacts for certain native wildlife in the area.

One species that may experience a setback in its numbers in light of the blaze is the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), which numbered as many as 1,000 breeding pairs among the region’s milkweed growth just a few years ago.

“We are more concerned about the damage that’s been caused to trees and bushes there,” said Washington State University entomologist Dr. David James. “In Central Washington it gets very hot and the monarch does not like temperatures above 100 degrees. They depend on shelter from these sorts of trees and bushes to survive.”

Dr. James says the iconic insects will typically produce two generations of offspring before leaving the Crab Creek area to winter in California.

“It’s an important breeding site to build the population up,” explained James. “If they don’t build the population up in the summer, they’ll just keep declining.”

Residents in and around the blackened lands of the 243 Fire can assist with monarch population recovery by planting trees and shrubs which offer them shelter from the sun.

Aside from their storied and fantastic visual splendor, monarch butterflies are also critical pollinators which are beneficial to many flowering plant species, including numerous agricultural crop varieties.

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