Monarch butterfly on swamp milkweed in Michigan. Photo by Jim Hudgins/USFWS.
With its iconic orange and black markings, the monarch butterfly is one of the most recognizable species in North America. The monarch’s phenomenal transcontinental migration inspires awe among scientists and citizens alike. But over the past two decades, monarch numbers in North America have declined, prompting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to join state agencies, tribes, other federal agencies and non-government groups to identify threats to the monarch and take steps to conserve monarchs throughout their range. Due to the monarch’s decline, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed a status review under the Endangered Species Act.
In December 2020, after an extensive status assessment of the monarch butterfly, we determined that listing the monarch under the Endangered Species Act is warranted but precluded at this time by higher priority listing actions. With this finding, the monarch butterfly becomes a candidate for listing; we will review its status each year until we are able to begin developing a proposal to list the monarch.
Habitat loss and fragmentation has occurred throughout the monarch’s range. Pesticide use can destroy the milkweed monarchs need to survive. A changing climate has intensified weather events which may impact monarch populations.
Numbers of monarchs have decreased significantly over the last 20 years, but together we can save the monarch. In the United States, there is a massive effort to provide habitat for monarch butterflies, imperiled bumble bees and other pollinators. There is no one group or agency responsible for providing habitat needed for monarch conservation. All organizations, agencies and individuals must work together to improve, restore and create grassland habitats to save monarchs.
No matter who you are or where you live, you can get involved today. Start by planting milkweed and nectar plants that are native to your area. Garden organically to minimize your impacts on monarchs, their food plants and other pollinators. Become a citizen scientist and monitor monarchs in your area. Educate others about pollinators, conservation and how they can help.
Monarch butterflies and pollinators are in trouble. You can help by planting a pollinator garden! You can plant a garden anywhere - your yard, school, church, business or even in a pot for your front steps.
A simple, native flower garden will attract beautiful butterflies to your yard and help pollinators stay healthy. In addition to nectar from flowers, monarch butterflies need milkweed to survive, so if you notice the leaves on your milkweed have been chomped, don’t worry, it’s a great sign!
Monarch butterfly on blazing star. Photo courtesy of Brett Whaley/Creative Commons.
The monarch is more than one butterfly. Think of it as an ambassador to a mosaic of prairie plants and animals that all need soil, sun and time to grow. In the face of massive habitat loss, we at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been making a home for monarchs and species of the wider prairie ecosystem for decades. Now you can too in your own backyard.
A monarch butterfly on sumac. Photo by Brett Billings/USFWS.
Summer is coming to a close, but we at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have something special to enjoy, observe and celebrate. Mid-August marks the start of fall migration for millions of monarch butterflies. Adult monarchs are partway through their lifecycle, but their reproduction is on hold. These monarchs are different from their parents, grandparents and even great grandparents. Previous generations completed their life cycle in four weeks. Each of these previous generations migrated north, resulting in four generations over the course of the summer. Butterflies in this last generation are members of the generation that migrates south, often called the monarch super generation.
We are excited to be a part of leading the charge in protecting monarch butterflies across the American landscape. Saving the monarch butterfly will not happen without working together, creating collaborative opportunities. We are engaging with partners throughout North America to enhance our conservation efforts to provide a future filled with monarchs.