Monarch Butterfly Endangered  • Friends of the Earth

Monarch Butterfly Endangered 

Monarch Butterfly Endangered 

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The news broke in July 2022 that the iconic orange and black Monarch butterfly has been reclassified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. We’ve seen this coming and have been working hard to prevent it. When Big Polluters keep up their toxic practices with no regard to the health of the planet and its inhabitants, pollinators like monarchs get lost by the wayside.  

Since the 1980s Western Monarch butterflies have declined by over 99%. These butterflies are on the edge of extinction, and without rapid changes, future generations may never get the opportunity to glimpse the fluttering wings of these brightly colored pollinators in real life – only in history books. 

Why are Monarch Butterflies Endangered?

The biggest questions many are asking is “why are monarchs endangered?” and “how did we get here?” The factors that led us here include: 

  • Habitat loss
  • Pesticide exposure
  • Climate change
Habitat Loss

The vast areas that both western monarch populations and eastern monarch populations use as their winter habitat and breeding grounds are dwindling. The areas that were once a safe haven have been turned into areas for agriculture, tourism, and urban sprawl. 

Pesticide Exposure

The pesticide glyphosate is wiping out the only food source for monarch caterpillars. Milkweed for monarchs is essential for their lives, but it’s being decimated with herbicides used in agriculture, roadside ditch maintenance, residential lawns, and public parks. Pesticide use is at an all-time high, and with the population of milkweed decreasing, it’s no wonder that monarchs are now endangered.

Climate Change

Monarch butterflies depend on specific habitats for their winter hibernation, migration, and reproduction. Changes to the temperature due to climate change have disrupted crucial stages in the monarch’s life cycle.  As climate change accelerates, so does the stress on the butterflies at the beginning of the overwintering stage. 

Monarch Butterfly Going Extinct

Monarch butterflies are not extinct — yet — but these pollinators could be gone within our lifetimes. The western monarch population is closer to extinction than the eastern population, but not by much. As we mentioned above, the western monarch population has decreased by 99% in just a few short decades. Eastern populations have shrunk by 84%, still a grim decrease that shows just how much work we need to do to save them from extinction.

The good news is that while the outlook may look bleak, monarchs could one day make a comeback. But they need help from people like you. Agricultural-heavy regions, homeowners and property owners, and Big Ag corporations all need to take action to eliminate pesticides that are threatening the pollinators that we depend on. But corporations aren’t going to cut profits to save pollinators – we’ve unfortunately seen that too many times. 

That’s why we need an outpouring of support from activists to help save monarch butterflies. If we don’t act fast, the impending loss of this vital pollinator could start a ripple effect throughout many ecosystems that change how we live. 

How do Pesticides Affect Monarch Butterflies?

Pesticides contaminate milkweed — the vital food source for young monarch caterpillars. In fact, a recent study found over 64 different pesticides on milkweed, and every sample of milkweed was contaminated. Not only do some of these chemicals kill milkweed, a third of the samples contained pesticides at levels known to be lethal to monarchs. 

But the toxicity of pesticides doesn’t end there – pesticides like glyphosate are toxic to humans as well. Bayer-Monsanto will pay out nearly $10 billion to over 95,000 people who allege that the toxic weed-killer caused their cancer. But glyphosate is still sold in stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s and is sprayed on agricultural land throughout the country. Glyphosate isn’t just harmful to monarchs, it’s harmful to everyone!

Farmworkers are those most impacted by pesticides like glyphosate. They are regularly exposed to pesticides, breathing them in or absorbing the harmful chemicals through their skin while working day in and day out. 

How to Help Monarch Butterflies

If you want to help monarchs fend off extinction, there are ways you can get involved:

  • Become a member of Friends of the Earth and use your voice, along with thousands of others, to stop the rampant use of pesticides
  • Consider making a donation and help us fight Bayer-Monsanto and other polluters that are putting profits over protecting pollinators
  • Stop utilizing Roundup (aka glyphosate) and other toxic pesticides on your lawn and garden
  • Buy organic food when possible, its grown without glyphosate and over 900 other toxic pesticides.
  • Plant milkweed to help monarchs along on their journey
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