Monday, October 15, 2018

The monarchs are missing by Rebecca E. Hirsch

Say "butterfly" to a kid or adult and odds are good they will immediately think of a monarch butterfly. These gorgeous orange and black insects are known for their amazing migrations across the US to Mexico, the iconic pictures of trees covered in monarchs, and their distinctive striped black, white, and yellow-green caterpillars. But, like so many other creatures, the monarchs are in danger. In the winter of 2013/2014, historically low numbers were recorded at the wintering grounds in Mexico. Hirsch goes on a journey through the history of monarchs up to present-day scientists to solve the mystery.

Hirsch takes readers through the discovery of the monarchs' unique migration patterns; one large group, those to the west of the Rocky Mountains, migrated to California. Those east of the Rockies seemed to simply disappear. At the same time, small villages in the mountains of central Mexico welcomed floods of mariposas every year, without knowing where they came from. Finally, in the 1970s, scientists discovered the monarchs in a forest high in the mountains in Mexico. Hirsch continues through the scientific discoveries of the monarch's life cycle and migration, ending with their slow decline, beginning in the 90s.

Scientists discovered multiple factors affecting the monarchs; climate change and local habitat destruction was making the Mexican oyamel forests no longer a safe haven for the monarchs. Changes in weather patterns in Texas have also affected the monarchs. Milkweed was disappearing from the fields and tropical milkweed was disrupting the monarchs' migration patterns and possibly giving them diseases. Is there hope for the monarchs, threatened by many different elements? Hirsch explores the measures being taken to save monarchs, how readers can get involved, and the continuing work of scientists to protect these dazzling insects.

Verdict: This is an excellent introduction to a complicated scientific problem, one that kids can easily get involved in. A great point to start research or a school project, this is sure to be popular with teachers and students alike.

ISBN: 9781512452501; Published 2018 by Millbrook; Purchased for the library

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