The Green Blog
The Amazing Monarch


On their way to the 2014 National Convention of Delta Zeta Sorority this past summer in Tucson, Arizona, some attendees were surprised and delighted to see monarch butterflies making their southward late summer/autumn migration from the United States and southern Canada to Mexico.

The length of the migration journey exceeds the normal lifespan of most monarchs, which is less than two months for butterflies born in early summer. Female monarchs lay eggs for the next generation to continue the journey during these migrations. The monarch has the most highly evolved migration pattern of any known species of butterfly or moth and perhaps any known insect.
So, it caught my attention recently when I saw that the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) is helping the monarchs, who, although not currently listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) or protected specifically under U.S. domestic laws, are considered at a near risk for extinction. On August 14, 2014, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety filed a legal petition requesting Endangered Species Act protection for the monarch and its habitat. Monarch butterflies, native to North America, have two pairs of brilliant orange-red wings, featuring black veins and white spots along the edges. Males have the distinguishing black dots along the veins of their wings, are slightly bigger than females.

The butterflies need the mountain forests of Mexico in which to spend the winter, and need breeding and feeding places when they are in the U.S. However, deforestation, the use of herbicides (which kills their main source of food, the milkweed), and climate change (which changes their migration pattern when weather is affected) are pushing the monarch to near extinction.

WWF works to preserve vital butterfly habitat in Mexico's Monarch Butterfly Reserve by promoting good forest management and sustainable tourism. The organization also supports tree nurseries that help restore the forest in the Reserve which creates new sources of income for the local communities that live among the butterflies.

Conservationists are lobbying transportation departments and utilities to reduce| their use of herbicides, especially during the butterfly breeding season. Environmental conservationists are lobbying large-scale agriculture companies to leave small areas of cropland unsprayed to allow the butterflies to breed.

You can donate to WWF or adopt a butterfly to help them continue this important work. You can also create your own butterfly garden or specifically, a monarch butterfly garden, to give these beautiful butterflies a refuge and encourage breeding.

We want future generations to enjoy and appreciate this beautiful butterfly, just as Tania's children did on their way to Tucson this past summer.

Source: WWF (World Wildlife Fund)

More from the Center for Biological Diversity.
Read an update here.