The Monarch Butterfly Is In Danger Of Extinction

The Monarch Butterfly is the only insect that makes an incredible migratory journey. Unfortunately, human practices are causing their demise.
Monarch butterfly is in danger of extinction

The monarch butterfly is one of the lepidopterans and one of the best known insects in the world. With its iconic orange and black appearance and migratory odyssey, this invertebrate has captured the hearts of all of America. On this continent, it has become a symbol of the changing seasons and is part of important cultural traditions.

However, this butterfly is not at its best. Several actions of human origin threaten their existence and reduce their populations. If we don’t start working, the planet could lose this fantastic animal. If you would like to learn more about the monarch butterfly, its conservation status and its threats, we invite you to continue reading.

Monarch butterfly characteristics

The monarch butterfly, scientific name Danaus plexippus , is a lepidopteran of the Nymphalidae family. This invertebrate is easily recognizable thanks to its 2 pairs of wings, which give it a wingspan of between 7 and 10 centimeters.

The wings are a deep orange, which are bordered by broad black borders and crossed by a series of finer black veins. The margins are adorned by a series of white dots. The rest of the body is also black and features some of these color patterns.

One of the most striking features of these insects is their incredible migratory journey, which crosses entire continents and requires several successive generations of butterflies to complete. Danaus plexippus is the only known butterfly to perform this type of migration .

A monarch butterfly on an orange background.

Why is the monarch butterfly in danger?

These Lepidoptera used to be incredibly abundant. So much so that, during mass migrations, the sound of their flapping wings resembled stream water or summer rain, according to the Center for Biological Biodiversity .

However, the total population of the monarch butterfly may have declined by about 90% since 1990. As is increasingly common, this decline is mediated by human actions, which are often carried out without considering their impacts on the environment. Among the causes of this marked loss are the following.

habitat loss

Habitat destruction is one of the most frequent and harmful threats to wildlife. In the United States, much of the reproductive habitat of monarchs has been eliminated by modern agricultural practices, which are harmful to the natural environment.

One of the most relevant problems is the disappearance of plants of the genus Asclepias , called milkweed in English. The monarch butterfly depends on these plants to survive, as it feeds exclusively on them when they are larvae.

The habitats where they winter in Mexico are also being destroyed. The logging industry, both legal and illegal, is degrading the forests these butterflies use and causing their deforestation. The expansion of agribusiness also contributes to this phenomenon.

Pesticides and GMOs

The use of herbicides is another widespread practice in modern agriculture that poses major problems for species conservation. These toxic chemicals, combined with the use of transgenic plants resistant to them, prevent Asclepias from growing .

Pesticides are also very common in agriculture and garden management. Although they are used to control insects considered harmful, they also harm butterflies and many other pollinating insects.

climate change

Migratory animals are especially vulnerable to climate change. Its survival depends on its displacements, which are regulated by specific environmental conditions. These mass mobilization events coincide with boom times in destination locations.

As climate change alters environmental conditions, the coordination of migratory journeys with optimal parameters can be lost. The ecosystems that this species needs can be lost or altered to the point where they are no longer usable.

Monarch butterflies may have to alter their migration routes to survive. It is difficult to predict what will happen with climate change, but the future of this species does not look very bright in the long term.

How to prevent the extinction of the monarch butterfly?

To prevent the extinction of these insects, it is essential to implement better management of agricultural land, gardens, roadsides and similar green areas. This management should allow recovering Asclepias and other wild flowers that used to be very common.

The plants wrongly considered “weeds” that we work so hard to eliminate are actually valuable native species. These vegetables and shrubs benefit biodiversity in general and pollinating insects in particular. Therefore, they are also very beneficial for people.

Monarch butterflies are migratory animals.

The protection of the spaces that these Lepidoptera use against the excessive advance of industries is also of undeniable importance. Furthermore, it is necessary to support robust environmental policies that minimize the emission of polluting gases and slow down climate change.

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