If you’ve noticed fewer and fewer monarch butterflies in your garden over the past few years, unfortunately it’s not your imagination — the migratory butterflies have declined in population over the years, and landed on the international endangered list.
The orange-and-black butterflies are at risk as a result of habitat destruction and climate change, according to an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) press release. The population of monarchs has decreased between 22 and 72 per cent over the last decade, with their decline being attributed to logging in both California and Mexico — the locations the butterflies migrate to in the winter — and the combination of herbicides and pesticides have impacted milkweed, which the monarch caterpillars feed on.
Monarchs are on the ICUN’s red list, which means they are two steps away from extinction.
“It is difficult to watch monarch butterflies and their extraordinary migration teeter on the edge of collapse, but there are signs of hope. So many people and organizations have come together to try and protect this butterfly and its habitats,” said Anna Walker in the press release. Walker is a member of the IUCN SSC Butterfly and Moth Specialist Group and Species Survival Officer at the New Mexico BioPark Society and helped lead the monarch butterfly assessment.
“From planting native milkweed and reducing pesticide use to supporting the protection of overwintering sites and contributing to community science, we all have a role to play in making sure this iconic insect makes a full recovery.”
Monarch butterflies play an important role in environmental health, as they are a pollinator. As the Canadian government reports, their pollination is responsible for the fertilization of plants and crops so they can produce seeds and fruit.
Although this news is depressing given the number of species currently on the endangered list (a whopping 41,459 are threatened with extinction), luckily nonmigratory monarch butterflies in central and South America are not listed as being endangered.