Saving endangered monarch butterflies is in our hands

North America is home to many famous living species: bald eagles, grizzly bears, bison and monarch butterflies. But monarch butterflies in the US may not be around much longer. That migratory monarch butterfly, which occurs in the continental US, has been listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. While things aren’t looking good for monarchs right now, there are steps we can take today to protect our flying friends and help them see tomorrow.

You may find it odd that I put a butterfly next to the bald eagle, but migratory monarch butterflies are remarkable creatures.

You may find it odd that I put a butterfly next to the bald eagle, but migratory monarch butterflies are remarkable creatures.

First off, monarch caterpillars are picky eaters, feed on milkweed — a poisonous plant. They have the unique ability to tolerate spurge venom, meaning they don’t have to compete for food with other species and become poisonous themselves.

As adults, monarch butterflies typically weigh less than half a gram, so light that nine would outweigh them a sheet of paper. For the first three generations born in a year, Adults live a few weeks, a short life for a fragile aviator. But the fourth generation does something really extraordinary.

Monarchs born in the fourth and last generation of the year can live for several months as the butterflies migrate up to 3,000 miles south to winter in warmer climes. Some travel all the way from the shores of the Great Lakes across the Great Plains through central Texas to the humid mountain forests of Mexico. West of the Rockies, they migrate from the Pacific Northwest to southern California. It is the only known butterfly migrate in two directions, as do birds.

The two populations to the east and west are probable genetically linked, but they fare worse in the West. In the east has the monarchical population decreased by about 80%. That’s amazing decline of hundreds of millionsbut it pales next to the almost total collapse of Western populations.

In the 1980s there were possibly 10 million butterflies in western populations. 2021, there were 1,914. Imagine if New York City’s population dropped below 2,000 people, and that’s what happened to the West Coast monarch butterflies.

Humanity has experienced – and caused – similar collapses. In the early 19th century that is estimated 3 billion passenger pigeons lived in North America. John Audubon wrote about a flock of passenger pigeons so large that they blocked the sun for three days. But habitat destruction and rampant hunting meant there were none left in the wild by the late 1800s. That last passenger pigeon died in a zoo in 1914. If we don’t act, the migratory monarch butterfly could become like the passenger pigeon and just become a memory to tell your grandchildren about.

Humanity has experienced – and caused – similar collapses. In the early 19th century, an estimated 3 billion passenger pigeons lived in North America.

research suggests that the biggest factor affecting monarch populations is climate change, which alters the weather during their breeding season. This makes efforts to combat climate change a key element in saving these endangered insects. It is also important that migratory monarchs receive protection at the federal and state levels. 2020 you became a candidate for protection under the US Endangered Species Actbut they have not been added yet.

There are also things we can do on an individual level to help save monarch butterflies. Spurge often grows in agricultural fields, which aids monarchs but harms farms as spurge reduces crop yields. research shows that as the use of herbicides to control spurge increased, monarch populations declined, and Pesticides are often found on milkweed leaves.

This brings us to some simple ways to help monarch butterflies.

Avoid using pesticides in your yard and garden that can kill milkweed, monarchs and many other good organisms. Hand remove problem plants when you can, and if you must use pesticides, apply them at the recommended times and times Choose less toxic optionswho are more likely to harm pests than milkweed or butterflies (or humans).

plant milkweed in your yard or garden. There are many species of milkweed, so it’s important choose the right variety: one that is native to your area and will thrive where planted. With varieties of antelope horn to zizotesonly Do not choose tropical spurge, as it can spread a monarch parasite and disrupt migration. (The California Department of Food and Agriculture has designated tropical spurge as a noxious weed.)

Spurge can be supplemented with native flowering plants, allowing you to provide food for all stages of the monarch’s life cycle. The nonprofit Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas offers counseling what makes a good Monarch waystation. You can even Get your garden certified as the official way station of the monarchs.

With a lot of time and effort we were able to propagate bald eagles, grizzly bear and bison populations past historic lows. Let’s do the same for monarchs. Saving endangered monarch butterflies is in our hands

Fry Electronics Team

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