TROUBLE FOR MONARCHS
But you can help!
Monarch butterflies will soon be making their way from overwintering sites in the mountains of Mexico and the coast of California back to breeding grounds across the United States and into southern Canada. Unfortunately, far fewer monarchs will be making the northward flight this year and the ability to see large numbers of these beautiful butterflies during the summer is becoming less certain.

 

In the 1990s hundreds of millions of monarchs made the epic flight each fall from the northern plains of the U.S. and Canada to sites in the oyamel fir forests north of Mexico City. In western North America, more than a million monarchs made a shorter flight. Monarch numbers have been declining for more than a decade and this year scientists documented record low numbers. We have seen more than a 90% decline.

 

Why is this occurring? We don't know for sure, although there are several factors that are likely contributing. Habitat loss due to urban development and large-scale agriculture are key concerns. Farms now cover vast areas and many grow genetically modified crops that allow herbicides to be used on and around the crop, including in areas where milkweed - the one plant that monarch caterpillars need - used to grow. These "Roundup ready" crops are a major cause of milkweed loss throughout the Midwest and are thought to be a key reason for monarch decline. The loss of forest habitat in Mexico and loss and aging of monarch groves in California may also be playing a role. In the West, severe drought is likely contributing to reduced monarch populations. Additionally millions of acres of farms and urban land are also treated with toxic insecticides. All of these are compounded by climate change.

 

We do not have to sit and watch these declines continue. We can provide the butterflies with high-quality, insecticide-free habitats. This is not something that need be restricted to a distant wilderness, but a cause in which everyone can take part. Homeowners and farmers can plant milkweed (monarchs' host plant) and native flowers, and work to limit the impact of insecticides. Land managers can ensure that large monarch breeding areas are adequately protected. And all of us can vote with our pocket book by buying sustainable, organic, or GMO-free products.

 

Aldo Leopold wrote in A Sand County Almanac, "One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds." For the sake of the monarchs-and so many other species-it is time to heal as many wounds as possible.


Will purchasing commercially raised monarchs and releasing them help the monarch population?

NO, this practice is not likely to benefit the monarch population, and may actually harm it.


Please read a statement by some of the nation's leading monarch researchers that highlights some of the conservation concerns of this practice.

For information on the Xerces Society's monarch conservation efforts, click here.
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