Every year, butterfly enthusiasts gather at key breeding sites to count the number of migrating monarch butterflies. The numbers reported this year were staggering—the monarchs that made it to this site were down 53% from last year’s count.
In particular, the smaller population of western monarchs fell 99% with fewer than 30,000 butterflies being reported. Government scientists say that the population is so low, it could cause monarchs to disappear entirely in as little as 20 years.
Monarchs face many hardships
It’s not as simple as putting out a pot of milkweed on your doorstep. Monarchs suffer from a huge range of threats, from illegal logging and loss of habitat, to climate change and pesticide use.
Pesticides are a particular problem for monarchs due to how pervasive they are. One study looked at over 200 milkweed samples from a variety of locations, ranging from wildlife refuges to nurseries. 100% of the milkweed samples were tainted with pesticide. 91% of them contained a lethal dose of Chlorantraniliprole. That’s enough to kill 50% of all monarchs that feed on them.
Monarch caterpillars eat milkweed exclusively, which is why this study is so important.
What you can do
Monarchs need to be placed under federal protection for them to have the best possible chance of recovery. This year over 100 groups called on the US government to protect the monarch—something people have been formally petitioning the government to do since 2014.
You can also help on a local level by planting milkweed with organic seeds and plants. If you don’t live along their flight path, consider writing to the US government with your concerns. You can also write posts that alert others about their needs, like this one.
Photo courtesy of Holli Hearn @ The Beautiful Monarch