Why Are Monarch Butterflies Endangered? (7 Major Reasons)

Monarch butterflies are one of the most recognizable species on Earth due to their brightly colored wings and vastly long migration that takes them across North America. 

butterfly

Every year, Monarch butterflies travel thousands of miles from Canada down into Mexico for warmth during the winter months.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the number of these butterflies has decreased by 80% in the last 20 years.

What Are Monarch Butterflies

Monarch butterflies are one of the most beautiful species of butterflies in the world.

They are known for their large and brightly colored wings, which feature a black and orange pattern. 

These butterflies are native to North America, where they can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, meadows, and gardens.

Monarch butterflies are also well-known for their annual migration. Every fall, monarchs from all over North America travel to overwintering sites in Mexico. During their journey south, these butterflies can be seen flying in large groups called “flocks.”

Despite their name, monarchs are not actually monarchs. The name derives from the fact that these butterflies were once the most common type found in Europe. The monarch butterflies you find in North America are native to this continent.

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Here Are 7 Reasons Why Monarch Butterflies Are Endangered:

1). Loss of Habitat

The primary reason why Monarch Butterflies are endangered is that there has been a dramatic reduction in their habitats within North America. 

As stated by National Geographic, “Monarch butterflies need three things to survive: milkweed plants (their food source), warm temperatures, and daylight.”

Due to human activities such as development, deforestation, and herbicide use, milkweed plants have been eliminated in great numbers which have made it difficult for Monarch butterflies to find food and survive.

2). Climate Change

Another reason why Monarch Butterflies are endangered is because of the effects of climate change. As the Earth’s temperature continues to increase, the warmer weather is not suitable for Monarchs and they are unable to migrate to colder climates as they have done in the past.

3). Parasites and Diseases

Monarch butterflies are also at risk from parasites and diseases that can kill them. According to National Geographic, “the biggest danger to Monarchs is a tiny parasite called Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) that is spread by infected butterflies.” 

This parasite can cause the wings of Monarchs to become deformed and makes them less able to fly.

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4). Illegal Trade

Illegal trade is also a major threat to Monarch Butterflies. As stated by the World Wildlife Fund, “millions of Monarchs are illegally collected every year and traded across borders for use in traditional medicines, as wedding decorations, or placed in children’s gardens as butterfly pets.

If this trend continues, it could lead to the extinction of Monarch Butterflies within a few decades.

5). UV Radiation

UV radiation is another factor that is harming Monarch Butterflies. As explained by National Geographic, “the thinning of the ozone layer allows more harmful UV radiation to reach the earth and damage the wings of Monarchs and their larvae.”

6). Air Pollution

Another reason why Monarch Butterflies are endangered is because of air pollution. As stated by National Geographic, “rural populations in North America often burn crop residue or let their cows graze freely on surrounding fields after harvest. 

This releases smoke (or smog) containing high amounts of ozone). Ozone enters through cracks in butterfly wings and can cause mortality rates to increase dramatically while butterflies are flying above urban areas.

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7). Pesticides

Even though some pesticides that emit chemicals into the environment may not directly affect the extinction of Monarch Butterflies, they do play a significant role in population decline. 

According to the World Wildlife Fund, “when a pesticide is sprayed, a certain amount of the chemical enters the environment and persists for long periods of time. 

Due to this, plants and animals can absorb them through their root system or via leaves.” This means that Monarchs are at risk because they drink water from milkweed plants.

Overall, loss of habitats, climate change, parasites and diseases, illegal trade, UV radiation, air pollution, and pesticides have contributed to the decline of Monarch Butterflies. 

If humans want to ensure that Monarch Butterflies remain on Earth for future generations to enjoy. We must take action and help restore these habitats by planting milkweed plants and reducing our carbon footprint.

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You Can Help Monarchs In The Following Ways:

  • The Monarch butterfly migrates through North America, but its numbers are shrinking.
  • The Monarchs are here. It’s time to plant some milkweed and get ready for the fall migration. These butterflies migrate thousands of miles each year, but their numbers are dropping.

1. Plant Milkweed

The main reason that these butterflies are endangered is not that they aren’t reproducing enough; it’s because their habitat is being destroyed. By planting milkweed, you’re giving Monarchs a place to lay their eggs and reproduce. 

There are several different types of milkweed plants, so be sure to check on which type the Monarch prefers before planting. Steps on how to make a milkweed plant grow quickly in order to provide food for the Monarch caterpillars

Now that you know how to identify milkweed plants, it is time to learn how to make them grow quickly. Here are five steps on how to do so:

1). Choose the right spot for your milkweed plant.

Make sure to choose a spot in your garden that gets plenty of sunlight. Milkweed plants need at least six hours of sunlight each day in order to grow quickly.

2). Water your milkweed plant regularly.

Milkweed plants need regular watering in order to grow quickly. Water your plant every other day, or when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch.

3). Fertilize your milkweed plant.

Milkweed plants need a lot of nitrogen in order to grow quickly. Add a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to your garden twice a month to help your milkweed plant grow big and strong.

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4). Remove competing plants.

Make sure to remove any competing plants from the area around your milkweed plant. This will allow your milkweed plant to grow without any interference.

5). Pinch off the flowers.

Pinching off the flowers of your milkweed plant will help it focus its energy on growing tall and strong. Don’t worry, the flowers will grow back.

By following these five steps, you can help your milkweed plant grow quickly and provide food for Monarch caterpillars.

6). Hang a Feeder

The Monarchs migrate from Canada all the way to Mexico every year, so chances are they’ll pass through your town at some point. 

If you hang a feeder for them, they will stop to refuel and lay their eggs before continuing on their journey. Milkweed seeds can also be added to the feeder for an extra treat while the Monarch is refueling.  

7). Do Not Use Pesticides or Herbicides

Monarch Butterflies (credit: Jeff Kubina/Flickr) If you use pesticides or herbicides in your yard, it could not only hurt the Monarch butterflies. 

They may also affect other wildlife such as bees and birds. The chemicals can make their way into the food chain and cause serious health problems for these animals.

8). Join a Citizen Science Project

There are several citizen science projects that you can join to help track the Monarch butterfly population. By collecting data on their migration patterns and numbers, scientists can better understand why their population is dropping and find ways to protect them.

9). Avoid Buying Genetically Modified Crops

Some crops, like corn and soybeans, are genetically modified to resist herbicides. If you buy these types of crops, it could mean more herbicides being used in your area which will kill off any milkweed plants that are growing nearby.

10). Educate Others about the Monarchs

Many people don’t know about the Monarch butterfly’s endangered status, so educate them. You can start by sharing this article with your friends and family on social media. 

If you’re part of an organization that is working to protect the Monarchs, ask them if they could inform more people about what they are doing. A simple post on Facebook or Twitter could help spread the word faster than you think.

11). Adopt a Butterfly Garden at Work

If you have a garden at home, why not extend it to work? Creating a butterfly garden at your office will attract butterflies for employees to enjoy. The best part is that everyone can take an active role in saving these creatures. 

Though many gardening companies offer design options for butterfly gardens, you can also create your own with some simple tips.

12). Report any Illegal Activity

If you see someone illegally picking or selling Monarch butterflies, report it to the authorities. By doing this, you could help to protect their breeding grounds and stop the sale of these endangered creatures.

13). Volunteer at a Local Habitat Restoration Site

There are many local habitat restoration sites that need volunteers to help plant milkweed and other native plants. These sites often have information about the Monarchs and what you can do to help them, so be sure to ask if you’re interested in volunteering.

14). Donate to an Organization Working to Save the Monarchs

There are many organizations out there that are working to save the Monarch butterflies. Some of these groups may be small and could use your help, so if you’re interested in donating money, time, or resources, contact them first to see how you can help.

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SpeciesD. plexippus
ClassInsecta
OrderLepidoptera
FamilyNymphalidae
GenusDanaus
PhylumArthropoda
KingdomAnimalia

Summary

In conclusion, the primary reason for the endangerment of Monarch butterflies is due to deforestation in Mexico.

At one time, this was where all of the Monarchs would migrate to each year after their summer migration from Southern Canada and the Northern United States. 

Due to a loss in habitat in Mexico, a high volume of illegal logging has occurred which could threaten a significant part of the migratory cycle.

Also, global warming poses a threat as well because it is causing earlier springs in temperate areas that are hosting Monarchs. 

This means that when the butterflies migrate northward to these locations they will be greeted with conditions unsuitable for mass success.

In turn, fewer butterflies will survive and reproduce because they struggle to lay eggs when there are early spring and cold spring nights.

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