Monarch butterflies now listed as endangered

cigaretteman

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The monarch butterfly fluttered a step closer to extinction Thursday, as scientists put the iconic orange-and-black insect on the endangered list because of its fast dwindling numbers.

“It’s just a devastating decline,” said Stuart Pimm, an ecologist at Duke University who was not involved in the new listing. “This is one of the most recognizable butterflies in the world.”



The International Union for the Conservation of Nature added the migrating monarch butterfly for the first time to its “red list” of threatened species and categorized it as “endangered” — two steps from extinct.

The group estimates that the population of monarch butterflies in North America has declined between 22% and 72% over 10 years, depending on the measurement method.


“What we’re worried about is the rate of decline,” said Nick Haddad, a conservation biologist at Michigan State University. “It’s very easy to imagine how very quickly this butterfly could become even more imperiled.”

Haddad, who was not directly involved in the listing, estimates that the population of monarch butterflies he studies in the eastern United States has declined between 85% and 95% since the 1990s.

In North America, millions of monarch butterflies undertake the longest migration of any insect species known to science.

After wintering in the mountains of central Mexico, the butterflies migrate to the north, breeding multiple generations along the way for thousands of miles. The offspring that reach southern Canada then begin the trip back to Mexico at the end of summer.

“It’s a true spectacle and incites such awe,” said Anna Walker, a conservation biologist at New Mexico BioPark Society, who was involved in determining the new listing.

A smaller group spends winters in coastal California, then disperses in spring and summer across several states west of the Rocky Mountains. This population has seen an even more precipitous decline than the eastern monarchs, although there was a small bounce back last winter.

Emma Pelton of the nonprofit Xerces Society, which monitors the western butterflies, said the butterflies are imperiled by loss of habitat and increased use of herbicides and pesticides for agriculture, as well as climate change.

“There are things people can do to help,” she said, including planting milkweed, a plant that the caterpillars depend upon.

Nonmigratory monarch butterflies in Central and South America were not designated as endangered.

The United States has not listed monarch butterflies under the Endangered Species Act, but several environmental groups believe it should be listed.

The international union also announced new estimates for the global population of tigers, which are 40% higher than the most recent estimates from 2015.

The new figures, of between 3,726 and 5,578 wild tigers worldwide, reflect better methods for counting tigers and, potentially, an increase in their overall numbers, said Dale Miquelle, coordinator for the nonprofit Wildlife Conservation Society’s tiger program.

In the past decade, tiger populations have increased in Nepal, northern China and perhaps in India, while tigers have disappeared entirely from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, said Miquelle. They remain designated as endangered.

 
Apr 22, 2022
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https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/western-monarch-population-growth-2021/

Western monarch populations grew over 100-fold in 2021. Why?​

The beloved butterflies had fallen to critical levels in recent years. Experts weigh in on what might be causing their remarkable return.

On a brisk December day in Pacific Grove, California, 10,000 monarch butterflies hang in the crown of a Monterey pine. Where the branches cast shade, they huddle body-to-body in thick brown clusters, wings folded. But where the light touches, the boughs are bejeweled with splashes of orange. Warming monarchs flap languidly, some flitting among the trees or fluttering down to the ground. Whenever the sun shifts, the air is busy with wings.

Last year at this time, there were no monarchs here at all. In fact, there are five times more butterflies in this tiny park right now than were counted in all of California in 2020.

Western monarch populations have declined precipitously since the 1990s, when 3 million to 10 million butterflies migrated annually from the northwestern United States to spend the winter at hundreds of sites along the California coast. Last year, less than 2,000 monarchs were counted in the entire state. Butterfly researchers despaired, since the number was well below the level theorized to lead to collapse and extinction. And they rejoiced when, unexpectedly, the species made a dramatic comeback last year.

California’s Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation announced today that with the help of volunteers it counted nearly 250,000 butterflies in 2021, a more than hundredfold increase that society Senior Endangered Species Conservation Biologist Emma Pelton calls “magnificent.” But as Pelton and her colleagues celebrate the news, they’re also asking: Why?

The monarchs of North America are split into two populations, and two spectacular migrations, divided by the Rocky Mountains. The Eastern monarch’s fliers sweep south every fall and blanket acres of forest in central Mexico each winter. At the same time, the Western monarchs depart sites across a broad swath west of the Rockies and head southwest to California. In their winter territory, these butterflies, which usually only live a few weeks, go into a state of suspended development called diapause, which allows them to extend their lives for months. About a third survive this period and go on to mate in late winter, usually February. After that, the females head northeast toward the Sierra Nevada mountains to find milkweed, which will shelter their eggs and feed the resulting caterpillars. The population expands for three or four generations, with the final one returning to the overwintering sites, says Elisabeth Crone, an ecologist at Tufts University.

A series of fortunate events

News of the Western monarch’s dramatic return is still fresh, so any ideas as to what might be driving the population surge are yet to be thoroughly researched. Still, the monarch life cycle is so complex, and their annual voyage so epic, that a panoply of factors would have to line up to cause such an enormous population jump, says University of California, Davis insect ecologist Louie Yang. He calls this scenario a “series of fortunate events.” Survival of the first-generation—those born after the long winter slog and resulting mating frenzy—is especially important among monarchs, says Crone, since healthy butterflies have more offspring, which then go on to have more offspring. And since a single female monarch can produce four daughters (15 or more in ideal lab conditions), early fortunate events could have far-reaching benefits.

Those events might include warm-but-not-too-hot weather, she says, since monarchs function poorly under too-cold and too-hot conditions and milkweed tends to do better than other plants for the first few years of a drought. They also might include the right amount of rainfall at just the right time. Research by Yang and others suggests that monarch caterpillars survive best during windows in early summer and early fall, though it’s unclear exactly why. Earlier in the year, he speculates, butterflies are often ready to lay eggs on milkweed, but that milkweed isn’t ready for their young. This may lead to hungry caterpillars feeding on too-small plants, or less protection from predators. What if, Yang asks, the levels and frequency of rain caused the milkweed to bloom at just the right time or in some other way that made it more accessible to the monarchs? “If it were to increase by twofold or fivefold or tenfold, that would have a big effect on population,” he says.
 

HawkMachine

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There was one summer we had probably 100k if not more in our backyard.

Not sure, maybe 10 years ago.

Was crazy, extremely cool and something I'll never forget.
 
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Speedway1

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@cigaretteman searching the internet for more the sky is falling news daily. Only surpassed by his Pro Democrat and anti conservative articles. I swear he is a paid troll.
 

QChawks

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@cigaretteman searching the internet for more the sky is falling news daily. Only surpassed by his Pro Democrat and anti conservative articles. I swear he is a paid troll.
shut-your-mouth-anthony-mennella.gif
 
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Fijimn

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I planted some milkweed but the caterpillars just destroy it.
This is the truth. We planted 4 large pots of milkweed along the breeze way. The milkweed loves the area and grew like crazy. We saw a couple of tiny caterpillars one day and the next day it was all gone, as were the caterpillars. And now the lizards have figured out that its a buffet. Ah...nature
 

billanole

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I planted some milkweed but the caterpillars just destroy it.
We started with a single plant several years back, now they cover several square yards. They are butting up against our four o’clocks and the fragrance from those two is amazing. It makes afternoon porch time a smell sensation.
Lots of bees and washers, some butterflies and moths, no monarchs cataloged at this point.

I will be transplanting milkweed to many other areas of our domain.
 

lucas80

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@cigaretteman searching the internet for more the sky is falling news daily. Only surpassed by his Pro Democrat and anti conservative articles. I swear he is a paid troll.
The world would be a better place if your species of authentic troll would go extinct.
 

lucas80

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NPR's On Point had a wonderful hour this morning on the Monarchs It isn't utterly hopeless, but it's within eyeshot of being hopeless. Next week will mark the beginning of the return migration from Canada as they follow the angle of the Sun.
Mrs. Lucas and I planted a little milkweed this Spring. We are turning a section of garden into a haven for pollinators next year, and will incorporate more milkweed. I did see a Monarch fluttering around one of the plants last week. So, baby steps.
 
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SIRHAWKALOT

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This is the truth. We planted 4 large pots of milkweed along the breeze way. The milkweed loves the area and grew like crazy. We saw a couple of tiny caterpillars one day and the next day it was all gone, as were the caterpillars. And now the lizards have figured out that its a buffet. Ah...nature

That's too bad, their caterpillars are safe from most predators due to eating only the milkweed plant, which has toxins in it that carry over to the larvae to give them natural defense against most predators, outside of some insects such as wasps etc.
 
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