Madison
55° F
Scattered Clouds
Scattered Clouds
Advertisement

Beloit couple works to save declining butterflies

By Jennifer Hoff, jhoff@wisctv.com
Published On: Jul 05 2013 09:46:04 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 05 2013 09:53:21 AM CDT

Channel3000.com

BELOIT, Wis. -

Summertime is usually prime time to catch a glimpse of the best-known butterfly. But the Monarch is on a sharp decline. Experts blame last year’s drought and this year’s cold spring and excess rain for so few Monarchs.

In fact, the number of Monarch butterflies in Wisconsin is at a 23-year low, but a Beloit couple is trying to change that.

At the Hess house, all the magic happens inside. Gary and Darcy Hess keep a watchful eye on the chrysalides that will soon be butterflies -- a small hobby they hope will solve a big problem.

"Maybe you’ve only saved one little piece of the world, one little butterfly, but you’ve done something and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s worth," said Gary Hess.

The Monarch is in a slump in part due to development, chemicals used in agriculture and the drought that decreased the milkweed crop the butterfly solely feeds on. The insect also migrates to Mexico where it faces even more hurdles.

"Deforestation is ruining the habitat, it's changing the environment and it’s making it more difficult for them over winter, so there are real concerns the population will be wiped out down there," explained UW-Madison entomologist Phil Pellitteri.

But he said butterflies can rebound if there’s a robust breeding season at breeding sites in Ohio and Canada. A Monarch population out West isn’t in any danger.

“It’s like many other things; if you lose it, it’s a sign of not taking care of things well,” Pellitteri said.

In the summer, Gary and Darcy Hess scour for eggs that could otherwise be eaten by predators. They said they found fewer eggs this year on the plants that grow on their rural property.

But when they do hatch, the two will care for the caterpillars until they emerge into a statewide symbol.

“We know we’re helping them every time we see a Monarch ... landing on one of our plants and feeding, and we know that we’ve done something good,” said Gary.

The couple will soon start to tag some of the butterflies to help biologists they work with understand the insect’s migration patterns.

The pair also have a wildlife permit to raise Ornate Box Turtles, which are endangered in Wisconsin. In 13 years, the Hesses have released nearly 200 of the turtles into the wild.

Advertisement
  • Marysville Pilchuck school shooting 4

    KOMO

    2 dead in school shooting near Seattle, sources say

    A school shooting has been reported at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Washington, about 35 miles north of Seattle.

  • Craig Spencer

    America's Ebola patients

    An American doctor who was working with Ebola patients in Guinea was been diagnosed with the disease after returning to New York. Learn more about him and America's other Ebola victims.

  • Hot peppers

    Karimala/iStock

    Notable food recalls

    A North Carolina producer of peppers and hot sauces is voluntarily recalling 6,215 pounds of fresh serrano chili peppers because some tested positive for salmonella. Here are other notable food recalls that made headlines.

  • jack-o-lantern Halloween pumpkin

    Juliet James/SXC

    Halloween

    Games, recipes, trick-or-treating, scary movies and everything else you need to make your Halloween extra spooky.

  • Politician, politics, debate, election

    iStock / bns124

    Election Coverage

    Get up-to-date on political stories, Reality Check the latest political ads, learn about the candidates and find election results in our special section.

  • Ebola virus pink

    CDC

    Ebola special coverage

    Get the latest news on the Ebola outbreak and resources to help you learn more about the deadly virus.

Advertisement