Monarch Butterflies See 90 Percent Population Decrease, May Land On Endangered Species List This Year

The monarch butterfly is, for many, the symbol of the arrival of spring. However, declines in monarch butterfly populations have left butterfly lovers and scientists concerned that the species needs to be added to the endangered species list. The population decline has been so severe that many expect to see the iconic monarch butterfly added to the endangered species list this year.

Forbes reports that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it is beginning a status review of the monarch butterfly, which will start with “a request for scientific and commercial data and other information from the public about the monarch and its decline.” The official announcement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the organization is hoping to have all data within 60 days.

“To ensure this status review is comprehensive, the Service is requesting scientific and commercial data and other information through a 60-day public information period.”

Scientists who have studied the unstable populations have seen a sudden drop in the last 20 years. The Xerces Society shows the drastic differences in hibernating monarch butterflies in Mexico since the 1990s. Overall, the populations have declined nearly 90 percent since the mid-90s.

The reason for the decline in monarch butterflies is believed to be a result of the loss of milkweed throughout the butterflies migratory paths. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the journey has become more perilous for the butterflies.

“This journey has become more perilous for many monarchs because of threats along their migratory paths and on their breeding and wintering grounds. Threats include habitat loss – particularly the loss of milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s sole food source – and mortality resulting from pesticide use. Monarch populations have declined significantly in recent years.”

The loss of milkweed habitats has been attributed to the heavy use of the Monsanto product Roundup. Roundup kills milkweed which, in turn, destroys the monarch caterpillar’s main food source. With monarch caterpillars unable to thrive, the caterpillars aren’t making it to butterfly adulthood. Therefore, we have seen a major decrease in the overall monarch butterfly populations.

Conversely, Monsanto claims they are not to blame for the monarch butterflies’ demise. Monsanto says that one particular 2011 monarch butterfly study shows that in certain local areas, monarch butterflies still thrive regardless of the Monsanto Roundup use. However, the study took into account “butterfly resilience” as a species. The study does point out that numbers were smaller in these areas, but noted the ability for the species to easily rebound. Though the species was able to adapt in certain areas, that is not the case for the species as a whole.

Should the monarch butterfly make its way to the endangered species list, Monsanto could have something to lose. With endangered species status, it may become illegal to destroy a monarch habitat, which could include milkweed. This would mean that Roundup may not be used in certain areas.

Monarch butterflies aren’t the only species in danger. Amphibians are also experiencing rapid declines as they continue to lose their native habitats across the globe.

What do you think of the dwindling monarch butterfly populations? If the monarch is added to the endangered species list, should Roundup be banned from the butterflies’ milkweed habitats?

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