It’s rare to see butterflies in Manhattan, and rarer still to have one land on you as this one did on my cousin as we were walking down a block in the 90s. It was a delightful moment and yet the delight passed quickly as I immediately thought of all the awful things that could explain the butterfly’s seemingly aberrant behavior. Was it sick? Had it been weakened from some environmental disaster? Was it a sign of the of the decline in the population of monarchs and the problems with their winter migration?
It’s hard to know what’s going on, at least from a cursory Google search. A column in the Portland Tribune announces ominously that “researchers warn that if present trends continue, Western Monarchs face a 72 percent likelihood of going extinct within 20 years” while an article in the Burlington Free-Press says the monarch migration this year is expected to be “enormous.” Of course, both could be true: despite a rise in this year’s migration, the lovely monarch might still be headed for extinction.