90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Why You Should Worry About The Butterflies

This year’s monarch butterfly migration is the smallest ever recorded. We’ll ask why. It’s a big story. Plus: how climate change is creating new hybridized species.

In this Oct. 21, 2013 file photo, a monarch butterfly lands on a confetti lantana plant in San Antonio. A half-century ago Monarch butterflies, tired, hungry and bursting to lay eggs, found plenty of nourishment flying across Texas. Native white-flowering balls of antelope milkweed covered grasslands, growing alongside nectar-filled wildflowers. But now, these orange-and-black winged butterflies find mostly buildings, manicured lawns and toxic, pesticide-filled plants. (AP)

In this Oct. 21, 2013 file photo, a monarch butterfly lands on a confetti lantana plant in San Antonio. A half-century ago Monarch butterflies, tired, hungry and bursting to lay eggs, found plenty of nourishment flying across Texas. Native white-flowering balls of antelope milkweed covered grasslands, growing alongside nectar-filled wildflowers. But now, these orange-and-black winged butterflies find mostly buildings, manicured lawns and toxic, pesticide-filled plants. (AP)

We love butterflies, and monarch butterflies are called “monarch” for a reason.  They are grand.  All that fluttering orange and black display on a winged scale built to impress.  To charm.  But monarch butterflies are in trouble.  This year saw the smallest migration ever recorded to their winter retreat in the mountains of Mexico.  And if you are looking this summer for monarchs, they’ve been hard to find.  There’s a reason, and it goes back to genetically-modified crops, say my guests today.  This hour On Point:  monarch butterflies, beautiful and in trouble.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Lincoln Brower, research professor of biology at Sweet Briar College.

Karen Oberhauser, associate professor in the department of fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology at the University of Minnesota. Director of the Monarchs in the Classroom and Monarch Larva Monitoring Programs.

Rick Mikula, President of Butterfly Rescue International. Author of “Garden Butterflies of North America.”

From Tom’s Reading List

Washington Post: Monarch butterflies keep disappearing. Here’s why. — “The number of butterflies migrating to Mexico has been dropping sharply. In 2012, just 60 million monarchs arrived at their overwintering habitats, a record low. And fresh data from WWF Mexico suggests that the current winter’s numbers are even lower — down to just 33 million butterflies across 0.67 hectares (1.65 acres). That’s the lowest area on record.”

Scientific American: Climate Change May Disrupt Monarch Butterfly Migration — “A monarch butterfly navigates using a sun compass in its mid-brain and circadian clocks in its antennae. But, until now, what makes a monarch reverse its direction has remained a mystery. New research shows that the chill at the start of spring triggers this switch.”

The Guardian: Endangered butterfly defies climate change with new diet and habitat – “Other butterfly species have been changing habitat or diet to cope with a changing climate but the quino checkerspot is the first butterfly known to science to change both so rapidly. Many environmentalists fear that climate change is happening too quickly for species to adapt but, according to Parmesan, this surprising example shows that some apparentlydoomed species may be more resilient than we imagine.”

Climate Change And Hybridized Species

Moises Velasquez-Manoff, science and environmental writer. Author of “An Epidemic of Absence.” (@moisesvm)

New York Times: Should You Fear the Pizzly Bear? —  “In an exceedingly brief period, coyote, wolf and dog genes have been remixed into something new: a predator adapted to a landscape teeming with both prey and another apex predator, us. And this mongrel continues to evolve. Javier Monzon, an evolutionary biologist at Stony Brook University, has found that Eastern coyotes living in areas with the highest densities of deer also carry the greatest number of wolf genes.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Oct 24, 2014
Ottawa police officers, with Parliament Hill in the background, guard the area around the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa on Thursday. (Reuters/Landov)

Gunfire in Canada’s capital. Billionaire millions hit the midterms. Huge airbag recall. Ben Bradlee is dead. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Oct 24, 2014
Andrew (Miles Teller) and his often demanding conductor, Terrence (J.K. Simmons) in a scene from the new film, "Whiplash." (Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics)

The new movie “Whiplash”. The thin line between obsession and abuse on the road to greatness. In music, the arts…sports.

RECENT
SHOWS
Oct 24, 2014
Andrew (Miles Teller) and his often demanding conductor, Terrence (J.K. Simmons) in a scene from the new film, "Whiplash." (Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics)

The new movie “Whiplash”. The thin line between obsession and abuse on the road to greatness. In music, the arts…sports.

 
Oct 24, 2014
Ottawa police officers, with Parliament Hill in the background, guard the area around the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa on Thursday. (Reuters/Landov)

Gunfire in Canada’s capital. Billionaire millions hit the midterms. Huge airbag recall. Ben Bradlee is dead. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
The Explicast, Episode Two: Why Is Election Day On A Tuesday?
Friday, Oct 24, 2014

The Explicast is back for another round. This time, we’re looking at Election Day, and why we all keep voting on a random Tuesday in early November.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: October 24, 2014
Friday, Oct 24, 2014

On comments, comment sections, and ROY G BIV.

More »
Comment
 
Introducing The Explicast: A New Podcast From On Point Radio
Friday, Oct 17, 2014

Confused about the news? Don’t worry: so are we sometimes! Introducing a new On Point Radio podcast: The Explicast. You can find Episode One right here.

More »
3 Comments