Conservation group trying to save monarch butterflies from extinction

In 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service suggested that the monarch butterfly be put on the endangered species list.Since then, not much has been done to protect the iconic butterfly. Now, butterfly enthusiasts all over the country are sounding the alarm, saying the monarch is dangerously close to being extinct. The monarch butterfly is one of the most recognizable species in the United States with their orange wings and black border with white spots. The monarch butterfly is an icon of the pollinator community. But, in the last few years, its population has declined to dangerously low levels.”The population numbers have decreased, I’ve heard, up to 90%,” said Pam Spencer, a master gardener with the University of Maryland and the founder of the Maryland Monarch Conservation.Spencer said there are four generations of monarchs that come each year. The first three live for a few weeks, but the fourth can live up to three months and makes a tremendous trek from the U.S. back to the colonies in the mountains near Mexico City.”From here, it’s about 2,500 miles, and I’ve had four successfully make it to the sanctuaries in Mexico,” Spencer said.Once there, the monarchs will hibernate during the winter until they make the huge trek back to the U.S. Lately, there have been a number of factors that are seriously cutting down the monarch’s numbers.What’s affecting the monarch population? ‘They’re starving’An increase in pesticides in the Midwest and in areas along the East Coast has devastated different types of milkweeds upon which the butterflies and other pollinators feed.”The monarchs are able to make the migration, but they’re not able to find enough nectar sources as they make that trip, and they’re starving,” Spencer said.Logging in Mexico, increased demand for development in the United States and an unstable climate are also playing a role.”One winter storm in those mountains while they’re hibernating could wipe out the entire population,” Spencer said.Jennifer Selfridge, an invertebrate ecologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said while there are a number of species that are in much worse shape than the monarch, it’s conservation groups like Spencer’s that are making a real difference.”Listing in and of itself doesn’t protect species. It’s on-the-ground actions that really make a difference,” Selfridge said.Federal funding to protect monarch habitatsIn fact, Maryland has received grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to create habitats on state park lands and wildlife management areas for monarchs and other pollinators.”We are using that funding to do a lot of planting projects, to do prescribed burns, to do invasive species control. So, all these things that will benefit pollinators and in the process monarchs,” Selfridge said. “It would be such a great loss to not have the monarchs,” Spencer said.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will review the status of the monarch butterfly in 2024. If you’d like to take a closer look at the status of the butterfly and what you can do to help, check out the following links:Watch the video above for the full story.

In 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service suggested that the monarch butterfly be put on the endangered species list.

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Since then, not much has been done to protect the iconic butterfly. Now, butterfly enthusiasts all over the country are sounding the alarm, saying the monarch is dangerously close to being extinct.

The monarch butterfly is one of the most recognizable species in the United States with their orange wings and black border with white spots. The monarch butterfly is an icon of the pollinator community. But, in the last few years, its population has declined to dangerously low levels.

“The population numbers have decreased, I’ve heard, up to 90%,” said Pam Spencer, a master gardener with the University of Maryland and the founder of the Maryland Monarch Conservation.

Spencer said there are four generations of monarchs that come each year. The first three live for a few weeks, but the fourth can live up to three months and makes a tremendous trek from the U.S. back to the colonies in the mountains near Mexico City.

“From here, it’s about 2,500 miles, and I’ve had four successfully make it to the sanctuaries in Mexico,” Spencer said.

Once there, the monarchs will hibernate during the winter until they make the huge trek back to the U.S. Lately, there have been a number of factors that are seriously cutting down the monarch’s numbers.

What’s affecting the monarch population? ‘They’re starving’

An increase in pesticides in the Midwest and in areas along the East Coast has devastated different types of milkweeds upon which the butterflies and other pollinators feed.

“The monarchs are able to make the migration, but they’re not able to find enough nectar sources as they make that trip, and they’re starving,” Spencer said.

Logging in Mexico, increased demand for development in the United States and an unstable climate are also playing a role.

monarch butterflies

“One winter storm in those mountains while they’re hibernating could wipe out the entire population,” Spencer said.

Jennifer Selfridge, an invertebrate ecologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said while there are a number of species that are in much worse shape than the monarch, it’s conservation groups like Spencer’s that are making a real difference.

“Listing in and of itself doesn’t protect species. It’s on-the-ground actions that really make a difference,” Selfridge said.

Federal funding to protect monarch habitats

In fact, Maryland has received grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to create habitats on state park lands and wildlife management areas for monarchs and other pollinators.

“We are using that funding to do a lot of planting projects, to do prescribed burns, to do invasive species control. So, all these things that will benefit pollinators and in the process monarchs,” Selfridge said.

“It would be such a great loss to not have the monarchs,” Spencer said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will review the status of the monarch butterfly in 2024. If you’d like to take a closer look at the status of the butterfly and what you can do to help, check out the following links:

Watch the video above for the full story.

Contributed by local news sources

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