Baltimore Sun

Migratory monarch butterflie­s now listed as endangered

- By Christina Larson

WASHINGTON — The monarch butterfly fluttered a step closer to extinction Thursday, as scientists put the iconic orange-and-black insect on the endangered list because of its fast dwindling numbers.

“It’s just a devastatin­g decline,” said Stuart Pimm, an ecologist at Duke University who was not involved in the new listing.

The Internatio­nal Union for the Conservati­on of Nature added the migrating monarch butterfly for the first time to its “red list” of threatened species and categorize­d it as “endangered” — two steps from extinct.

The group estimates that the population of monarch butterflie­s in North America has declined between 22% and 72% over 10 years, depending on the measuremen­t method.

“What we’re worried about is the rate of decline,” said Nick Haddad, a conservati­on biologist at Michigan State University. “It’s very easy to imagine how very quickly this butterfly could become even more imperiled.”

In North America, millions of monarch butterflie­s undertake the longest migration of any insect species known to science.

After wintering in central Mexico, the butterflie­s migrate to the north, breeding multiple generation­s along the way for thousands of miles. The offspring that reach southern Canada then begin the trip back to Mexico at the end of summer.

A smaller group spends winters in coastal California, then disperses in spring and summer across several states west of the Rocky Mountains. This population has seen an even more precipitou­s decline than the eastern monarchs, although there was a small bounce back last winter.

Emma Pelton of the nonprofit Xerces Society, which monitors the western butterflie­s, said the butterflie­s are imperiled by loss of habitat and increased use of herbicides and pesticides for agricultur­e, as well as climate change.

“There are things people can do to help,” she said, including planting milkweed, a plant that the caterpilla­rs depend upon.

The United States has not listed monarch butterflie­s under the Endangered Species Act, but several environmen­tal groups believe it should be listed.

 ?? NIC COURY/AP 2021 ?? A monarch butterfly rests on a branch at Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, Calif.
NIC COURY/AP 2021 A monarch butterfly rests on a branch at Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, Calif.

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