Drinking beer can now help the conservation of monarch butterflies

Drinking beer is for millions of people in the world a small or great pleasure. In Florida, in addition, this enjoyment serves to help the monarch butterflies that each year migrate from Canada and the United States to the mountains of central Mexico.

Thanks to an alliance between the University of Florida and First Magnitude Brewing Company, a craft brewery based in Gainesville, North Florida, Reign was born, a black tap beer whose name is a nod to the colorful monarchs (Danaus plexippus ) and will be used to raise funds for the restoration of habitats of this iconic species of Lepidoptera.

Reign is the spearhead of a project that wants to involve craft brewers from all over the United States.

With Florida as an important step in the migratory routes of the monarchs, which can cover up to 3,000 miles (more than 4,500 kilometers) between Canada, the United States, and Mexico and usually arrive at their destination in November, the campaign has special relevance in view of the continued decline of the species in this state during the last four decades.

A recent study found that since 2005, the population of monarch butterflies in central and northern Florida has dropped by up to 80%, according to researcher Jaret Daniels, director of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, of the Museum of Natural History of the UF.

Jaret daniels
Jaret Daniels.

“The more money we get, the more habitat we can rebuild,” said the researcher, who specified that through the campaign they hope to be able to plant in this state up to a million specimens of milkweed, commonly called milkweed, where the larvae of these butterflies grow.

These plants, of which there are at least one hundred species in North America, thus play a key role in the survival of these butterflies, whose migration is, in Daniels’ words, “one of the most impressive natural spectacles on the planet” and also a “natural phenomenon in danger of extinction” due to climate change.

With a prominent role in pollination processes, monarchs have lost habitats in the past decades to a large extent due to human activity, specifically due to the expansion of agriculture, the use of pesticides, and the rise of urbanization, as pointed out by the investigator.

FLORIDA, THE KINGDOM OF MONARCHIES

The warm climate and the availability of milkweed have meant that much of Florida’s monarch butterfly population remains in this state throughout the year and reproduces continuously, especially in the south.

To these are added the butterflies that migrate from the northern United States and southern Canada, which increases the importance of this state for the population of these insects, weighing just one gram and the thickness of a sheet of paper.

Glyphosate used in pesticides is deadly to milkweed, without which the population decline of monarchs is inevitable, as studies show.

These butterflies lay hundreds of eggs on these plants during their short lives, but just over 2% of the eggs survive and they manage to become fully developed caterpillars.

Daniels welcomed the efforts made by organizations to restore monarch habitats, which are going “quite well, but there is still a lot to do, and the general public can play an important role.”

A TOAST TO THE MONARCHS

Reign beer, which began to be offered to the public in September, is the most recent chapter in the union between the UF and the First Magnitude Brewing Company, which in recent years have launched a dozen beers with the goal of supporting the conservation of monarchs.

Among those ten, all distributed mostly in North Florida, there was one that even “used yeast carefully extracted from a real butterfly in its brewing,” as the university noted in a statement.

Daniels explained that the brewers that join the campaign initiated by the Gainesville brewery should start with the use of the name, the graphic, and the main ingredients of the recipe, from which the participants can add other components or forms of presentation (bottles, cans, etc.).

It may be the first national campaign with a conservation purpose involving a brewery, yet Daniels has faith in its success given past antecedents of a similar nature.

Last year, a Texas brewery launched the Black is Beautiful social campaign, attracting more than 1,200 breweries in all 50 states and raising about $ 2.2 million.

“Beer is a great outreach tool. It reaches a different demographic says Daniels, who believes that “the traditional way we’ve approached conservation is not enough.”

For her part, the president and founder of First Magnitude Brewing Company, Christine Denny, highlighted in a note the vision of the researcher to note that “beer and conservation can be combined to bring butterflies to a new audience.”

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