The Monarch butterfly is renowned for its annual late summer/autumn migration from the United States and Canada down the East Coast to Mexico and can be regularly seen in Transylvania County. The numbers of the butterfly, however, have been dropping, and the eastern population, experts say, face going “quasi-extinct” during the next 20 years.
“Monarchs are harbingers of climate change,” said Pearsall, a retired registered nurse who moved to Brevard with her husband in 2003. “What affects them affects us. Over the last 20 years their population has declined related to the loss of habitat both here and in Mexico. The use of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides plays a huge role in killing off insects and host plants. In regard to monarchs, the herbicide glyphosate kills their only host plant, milkweed. Development for our needs also plays a role in habitat destruction.”
Pearsall wanted to learn about habitat restoration and in 2004 she was mentored by Brevard naturalist, Ina Warren. Between 2004 and 2012, she and Warren worked together to plant milkweed in the area. In 2012, both were asked to participate in a new volunteer group sponsored by Monarch Watch called Monarch Watch Conservation Specialists. Pearsall now gives many talks about monarchs and their needs to schools and other groups. She also continues to help create more habitats in private and public places.
On Sept. 17, at the Cradle of Forestry in Pisgah National Forest, Pearsall will lead a program looking at the Monarch butterflies, the challenges it faces, and how it and humans can co-exist. For more information, call (828) 877-3130 or go to www.cradleofforestry.org.