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  • Writer's pictureKristin Bailey Wilson

The Beleaguered Monarch and the Mosquito Fogger

Monarch or Danaus plexippus
monarch right before pesticide fogging in Kentucky.

I took the picture above of a beleaguered looking monarch in late September. My thought as I snapped was to wonder if he'd make it to Mexico, so I Google mapped it. The Reserva de la Biosfera Sierra Gorda in the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range is 1,599 miles from my doorstep. There are 2 toll roads, but he won't have to bother with that.

The reserve is a monarch haven, so I thought it was safe to speculate that it might be this guy's destination. With tourists flocking there on busses to see the overwintering monarchs, it might not be the quiet haven of old, but they're protected there.

Fifteen hundred miles on a broken wing. That's a country music song if there ever was one.

I took the picture at 5:27 pm. At 9:17 pm the mosquito flogging truck slowly descended the decline onto my road, a cul-de-sac - fog coming and going. Normally they spray in the daylight between 3ish and 5ish, so I was grateful for the spraying in the dark, but distressed too (e.g., Monarch Massacre).

Last July, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classified the monarch as 'endangered.' Largely because over the last 30 years, the population has decreased by 80 percent (WWF Monitoring Report). Eighty percent.

monarch caterpillar
monarch caterpillar on my milkweed

I plant milkweed for the monarchs and some other natives where egg becomes larvae to pupa and then butterfly. I'm not a monarch momma, but this year I counted 5 monarchs on my Joe Pye Weed at one time. A win -- until the foggers drove by.

With the new status by the IUCN, there's a new reason - more than a reason - carefully collected data on populations - to try or try again with city administrators. It's the least I can do for a fellow attempting to travel 1,599 miles with a broken wing.


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