In a few weeks, it will be the start of the monarch butterfly’s migration.1 Millions of monarch butterflies make a 3,000-mile journey to Mexico – this migration takes several generations, as adult monarchs only live a few weeks.2&3
Monarchs need places to rest and eat and lay their eggs along this journey – and that’s where they’re having trouble. Habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change, and the destruction of milkweed in many areas has caused a 90% decline in monarch butterfly populations over the past few decades.1&2
Milkweed is the only host plant for monarchs when they’re caterpillars.2 They feed on this plant as well as lay their eggs on it. Without it, they can’t complete their life cycle. Milkweed is also important for other creatures like honey bees.4
Because of their decline, the US Fish & Wildlife Service has looked at monarch butterflies to see if they should be listed under the Endangered Species Act. In December 2020, the USFWS decided not to list the monarch butterfly because there were other priorities that needed to be handled first. That puts monarchs in a position where they are now a candidate for listing in the future.1
Even though they haven’t been listed under the ESA, other groups have been working hard to help out monarch butterflies. For example, the National Wildlife Federation has been working with various states to create pollinator-friendly habitats along Interstate 35, which runs along the same route as monarchs’ migration.2
Plus, because monarch butterflies fly through North America, Canada, Mexico, and the United States have worked together to create the North American Monarch Conservation Plan. Within Mexico, there’s the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reservewhich is a protected reserve that has four monarch sanctuaries within it. In Canada, the monarch butterfly is protected by the Species at Risk Act.5
Although these butterflies don’t have ESA protections yet, many already recognize that action can be taken to help protect this special species. Sometimes taking small actions individually can help make a great difference for our favorite animals – like planting milkweed in your backyard to help monarchs that are around.
Helping out our native wildlife is important – that’s why we spend the time to bring this information to your inbox every week. Our native wildlife is special and we can take small steps to conserve and protect them.