Monarch Butterflies: Endangered or Not?

With numbers estimated to have decreased by 22% to 72%, the monarch butterfly made the list of endangered species for several environmental groups, although the U.S. has not yet included the insect on the Endangered Species List. 

Conservationist Nick Haddad of Michigan State University told Associated Press that the scientific community is primarily worried about the rate of decline of this most recognizable of insects.

“It’s very easy to imagine how very quickly this butterfly could become even more imperiled,” he added. 

Haddad studies the monarch in the eastern United States, and has seen a decline between 85% and 95% since the 1990s. 

The orange and black butterflies travel longer than any other known species in a migration from central Mexico to southern Canada, with offspring that reach Canada immediately turning back to Mexico. Some monarchs spend their lives along the states west of the Rocky Mountain, wintering in California; this second group saw a bounce back last winter, although the increase did not last. 

The culprit for the death of these butterflies is primarily loss of habitat, although climate change, herbicides, and pesticides have made the matter worse. 

 “There are things people can do to help,” said Emma Pelton of the nonprofit Xerces Society – which monitors the numbers of the Western monarch.   

What can we all do to help? Plant milkweed, a plant that the caterpillars depend upon. Also, maintaining dense forests and decreasing the use of pesticides and herbicides would help. 

A separate group of monarchs which are not migratory and live in Central and South America are not considered endangered. 

For other interesting information about invertebrates in trouble, see this three-part series by Ari Blatt. 

By Marissa Roberts 

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