Why Are Monarch Butterflies Dying In Record Numbers?

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Monarch butterflies may be placed on the endangered species list in order to protect the dwindling numbers of the butterfly population. The butterflies need federal protection because the Monarchs have experienced a 90 percent population decline since the 1990s, according to the Center for Food Safety.

“That would be like losing every person in living in the United States except those in Florida and Ohio,” a release by the organization said.

The Monarch butterfly endangered species list petition was filed jointly by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety. The petitioners were also joined by scientist and professor Lincoln Brower and the Xerces Society. If the butterflies do garner endangered species list status, the federal government would be mandated to take “urgent and immediate action” to protect the population from further decline.

Environmental studies have reportedly shown that Monarch butterflies lay approximately four times more eggs per plant when utilizing milkweed growing on cropland than anywhere else. In addition to losing to losing natural breeding habits to herbicide use, the butterflies are also being impacted by ongoing urban sprawl. A significant portion of GMO corn fields has also been transformed in ethanol-producing areas. Climate change believers also feel fluctuations in the weather is also a threat to Monarch butterflies.

The butterflies must have a robust and successful reproduction stage each year in order to maintain feasible population levels over the cold winter months, according to researchers. Monarch butterflies migrate to the forests in Mexico from the Rocky Mountains. During a bad winter storm in 2002, about 500 million of the Monarch butterflies were killed. That tragic statistics represents approximately 14 times the entire population of the butterflies which were wintering in Mexico.

A Center for Food Safety release about the plight of the Monarch butterflies reads, “Herbicides like Roundup don’t kill monarchs directly, but rather kill their primary food source and habitat. Milkweeds are critical to the monarch’s survival because they are the only plants monarch caterpillars will eat. But thanks to the rampant use of Roundup on Monsanto’s genetically engineered crops, milkweed plants in the heart of the monarch’s range have been demolished. Fewer milkweeds mean fewer Monarchs.”

If the Monarch butterflies endangered species request is approved, perhaps the honeybees will be the next insect to garner the special protection from chemical herbicides and pesticides. The chemicals used to kill weeds, along with the increased use of genetically modified seeds, has long been considered a primary factor in colony collapse disorder by some beekeepers and scientists. Both species are reportedly suffering negative effects due to exposure to glyphosate, a chemical found in Monsanto’s Roundup Ready week killer. The chemical herbicide is often sprayed on corn and soybean crops, which encompass more than 150 million acres of farm land in America.

Scaling back the use of glyphosate and GMO crops will likely be met with extreme opposition from biotech companies – all of which have deep pockets and a lot of political influence. A plethora of former Monsanto executives and attorneys have been appointed to key positions at the USDA, EPA, and FDA during the Obama administration. Monsanto routinely donates heavily to both major political parties.

Are products made by biotech companies like Monsanto to blame for the massive amount of Monarch butterfly deaths?

[Image via: Shutterstock.com]