Monarch Butterflies Join the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species: Here's What We Can Do

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, so I'm hoping you've heard already: Monarch butterflies are now on The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Hitting the IUCN Red List isn't exactly an honour. The list serves as a critical indicator of the world's biodiversity, and the conservation status of species. 

Monarch Butterfly. Photo by Kristen Martyn. 

Monarchs are well known for their impressive journey totalling over 4,000 km. It takes several months and two to three generations for them to find their way to Canada and the United States each spring. Loss and fragmentation of habitat along their route is heavily attributed to their decline. 

Over the past few years there has been talk of a Monarch increase in Ontario. However, the IUCN Red List is an international ranking, considering their risk of extinction worldwide. It is estimated that their overall population has declined anywhere from 27-72%. over the past 10 years. A wide range of factors including climate change, the use of pesticides and herbicides, widespread agriculture, and logging have all impacted their population levels. These factors impact butterflies directly, as well as milkweed, which is imperative to their survival. 

Monarchs exclusively lay their eggs on milkweed plants. Until a few years ago, milkweed was listed as a “noxious weed” by the Ontario Agriculture Ministry, which required it to be destroyed on crop-land. Monarch caterpillars only feed on milkweed, this plant is vital to the continuity of the species. 

Monarch on Milkweed. Photo by Kristen Martyn. 

How Can We Help: 

  • Reduce use of herbicides and pesticides, which impact Monarch caterpillar populations, as well as milkweed populations. 
  • Create a Monarch Waystation, these sites are intended to provide valuable habitat including nectar, milkweed, and shelter as they migrate through North America. 
  • Plant Milkweed! As much as you can. It truly is the one resource they need most. 
  • Leave the weeds. Many mistake Goldenrod for the allergy inducing Ragweed. It does not cause allergies and is an important food source for pollinators, including Monarch butterflies. 

Monarch feeding on Goldenrod. Photo by Heather Kerrison. 

"Butterflies... flowers that fly and all but sing" - Robert Frost 

We hope that we see a conservation success story become of these magnificent creatures. 



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