FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2009 file photo, monarch butterflies gather on top of flowers at the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, near the town of Chincua, Mexico. The head of Mexico’s nature reserves, Luis Fueyo, said Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014, the first butterflies have been seen entering Mexico earlier than usual this year. He said it is too early to say whether butterfly numbers will rebound this year from a series of sharp drops, but “this premature presence could be the prelude to an increase in the migration.” (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)
By MARK STEVENSON, Associated Press
Experts in Mexico said Tuesday there is a tentative sign of hope for the mass migration of monarch butterflies, whose numbers dropped to their lowest level ever last year.
The head of Mexico's nature reserves, Luis Fueyo, said the first butterflies have been seen entering Mexico earlier than usual this year.
Fueyo said it is too early to say whether butterfly numbers will rebound this year from a series of sharp drops, but noted "this premature presence could be the prelude to an increase in the migration."
He said the first butterflies have been sighted in the northern border state of Coahuila. Most normally arrive in October from the United States and Canada, where they spend the summer.
"This year, we are seeing them present in Mexican territory earlier than usual," Fueyo said.
By November they settle in mountaintop forests where they spend the winter. Fueyo said authorities will wait to make a definitive count after the butterflies have settled in completely, something that usually occurs by December.
In February, Mexico, the United States and Canada agreed to form working groups on the conservation of Monarch butterflies, after steep and steady declines in the previous three years. Last year, the black-and-orange butterflies covered only 1.65 acres (0.67 hectares) in the pine and fir forests west of Mexico City, down from more than 44.5 acres (18 hectares) at their recorded peak in 1996.
Because the butterflies clump together by the thousands in trees, counting individuals in near impossible; instead they are counted by the area they cover. ...more