Saving the Monarch Butterfly from Extinction

  • Posted on 15 March 2019
  • By Georgia Cartmill

Monarch butterflies are overwintering in California in alarmingly modest swarms. In fact, Xerces Society—a nonprofit organization devoted to the conservation of invertebrates—has issued a call to action for Southern Californians regarding the western monarch butterfly: (1) Protect and manage overwintering sites; (2) Restore breeding and migratory habitat; (3) Protect habitats from pesticides; (4) Protect, manage, and restore summer breeding and fall migration habitats outside of California; and (5) Develop responses to research questions regarding monarch recovery.

This appeal follows devastating evidence that the population of the butterfly, Danaus plexippus, has diminished in the Southern California region by 99.4% since the 1980s (Xerces Society). There were approximately 28,500 butterflies counted in 2018, dropping from 192,600 in 2017 (Xerces Society). Supporting the obvious implication of this startling data, Xerces Society points out that the trouble with the current count is that a population of 30,000 is estimated as being on the verge of the species’ collapse—and, again, volunteers have tallied less than 29,000.

Xerces Society is doing more than reporting grim data, however. They have provided a search engine specifically for locating nurseries and farms that sell seeds of milkweed, a staple plant for various insects including the monarch butterfly. For instance, in Sun Valley, the Theodore Payne Foundation sells four species of milkweed—(this is the closest location to the Los Angeles area).In a curious and possibly positive turn of events, however, overwintering of monarch butterflies has reportedly spiked by 144% this winter in parts of Mexico. But researchers say that this could be an anomaly not indicative of the overall decreasing populations of the invertebrates.

However, in the U.S., it’s worth noting that a lack of milkweed may not be the only threat to the monarch butterfly population. In Texas, the Executive Director of The National Butterfly Center, Marianna Treviño-Wright, is taking a stand against President Trump’s proposed border wall which could negatively impact the habitats of the monarch butterfly as well as other wildlife. Treviño-Wright certainly answers the Xerces Society’s first call to action in defending monarch overwintering habitat.

Explore, Enjoy and Protect…with the Sierra Club & Natural History Museum LA partnership

In an effort to raise more awareness on the biodiversity in Los Angeles County and the importance of preservation, the Natural History Museum (LA) and the Angeles Sierra Club, are partnering to lead educational conservation hikes. This partnership was sparked by a recent launch of the Natural History Museums’ book, “Wild LA”. You may also like to visit the museum's butterfly exhibition.

These hikes are a treat to both the outdoor lover and the wildlife, plant lover. You will have the opportunity to go on a hike with Naturalist and an expert hiker.

Location of the hikes are still to be determined, please sign up on our list if you would like more info. 

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