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Monarch Butterfly Crisis


The monarch butterfly is a species in crisis!

Its key threats are the loss of milkweed in the USA, use of pesticides, adverse weather conditions, and deforestation.

Each fall,
eastern monarchs (east of the Rockies) travel to central Mexico, while western monarchs migrate to the California Coast, where they over-winter before returning for breeding.

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Eastern monarch update:

Results of the eastern migration showed the monarch population decreased by 59% in 2024. This is the second lowest number counted to date – the lowest was 0.67 ha during the 2013–2014 overwintering season.

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It has been reported that some scientists believe that climatic variations in the monarch's breeding areas in Canada and the United States gave rise to high temperatures and drought, which reduced the abundance of milkweed, the only plant in which the butterflies lay their eggs. Land-use changes in the United States, combined with the widespread use of herbicides, also contributed to the loss of milkweed and other nectar plants essential to feeding adult monarchs.

Western monarch update:

Results of the western migration showed a decrease in the overwintering monarch population, however, the Xerces Society reported that in the late-season count, a little over 141,000 butterflies were counted across 200 overwintering sites; by comparison, last year’s late-season count was only about 117,000. This suggests the population heading into the spring is modestly larger than last year, despite a lower peak-season count.

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The five key steps to recovering the western monarch population in the short term comprise the Western Monarch Call to Action which is led by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation:
  1. Protect and manage California overwintering sites
  2. Restore breeding and migratory habitat in California
  3. Protect monarchs and their habitat from pesticides
  4. Protect, manage, and restore summer breeding and fall migration monarch habitat outside of California
  5. Answer key research questions about how to best aid western monarch recovery
How to help. There are many factors out of our control, however, we can help the monarch butterfly by planting native milkweed like butterflyweed (Asclepius tuberosa). Milkweed is the only host plant that monarchs will lay eggs on and the only plant that the caterpillars can eat. We can also help by planting native nectar plants for their adult food source and also avoiding the use of pesticides in our gardens. Bring back the monarchs, they are beautiful in appearance, useful as pollinators, and their innate ability to navigate long distances across the continent is a natural wonder.
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All types of native bees are also in decline. Many of the plants that grow in our environment depend on bees for pollination. They pollinate flowers, fruits, and vegetables and their services provide food for the butterflies. Help preserve our environment . . . learn how to add plants to your garden to attract butterflies and help pollinators. Click here for your Butterfly/Bee Guide to plant preferences.

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