Hunt on for monarch butterfly eggs in the gardens of Canada

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When Canadian conservation enthusiasts head out to find monarch eggs, it’s always with a magnifying glass and a notebook. They are volunteers taking part in a summer census of the iconic, endangered butterflies.

July and August are the best months, when the monarch is visible in Canada at all stages of its development: eggs, caterpillar, chrysalis and adult butterfly.a close up of a flower: Hundreds of Canadian volunteers are taking part in a program to find monarch butterfly eggs, to help researchers determine environmental zones in need of protection© Enrique Castro Hundreds of Canadian volunteers are taking part in a program to find monarch butterfly eggs, to help researchers determine environmental zones in need of protection

It is also the reproduction period for the generation which will take off in a few weeks for a 4,000 kilometer (2,500 mile) journey to Mexico.

But it’s complicated research. “The monarch lays one egg per leaf. There are insects which can lay a dozen eggs all together while the monarch lays one. So we are looking for something very small,” explains Jacques Kirouac, who is among the hundreds of people who take part in the citizen science program Mission Monarch.Monarchs of the eastern side of the North American continent are in a difficult situation: their population has decreased by more than 80 percent in two decades© Enrique Castro Monarchs of the eastern side of the North American continent are in a difficult situation: their population has decreased by more than 80 percent in two decades

The eggs of these creatures known for their striking orange and black colors are off-white or yellow and about the size of a pinhead, with ridges that run from the tip to the base.

The species’s dire situation led to the creation five years ago of this program set up by the Montreal Insectarium to document monarch breeding grounds. The data is used by researchers, in particular to determine zones in need of protection. There are similar programs in the United States.

Monarchs of the eastern side of the continent are in a difficult situation: their population has decreased by more than 80 percent in two decades. Western monarchs — which hibernate in California — are even worse off: fewer than 2,000 were reported in the last census by Western Monarch Count, down 99.9 percent since the 1980s.a bird sitting on a branch: Monarch butterflies are essential to ecosystems and economies because they pollinate plants, recycle nutrients and serve as staple food for other animals© Enrique Castro Monarch butterflies are essential to ecosystems and economies because they pollinate plants, recycle nutrients and serve as staple food for other animals

More generally, the disappearance of insects — less spectacular and less striking for the public than that of large mammals — is just as worrying, say the scientists.

They are essential to ecosystems and economies because they pollinate plants, recycle nutrients and serve as staple food for other animals.

– ‘Not enough data’ –

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