Save the monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly on swamp milkweed in Michigan. Photo by Jim Hudgins, USFWS.
Monarch butterfly on swamp milkweed in Michigan. Photo by Jim Hudgins/USFWS.

The monarch butterfly is one of the most recognizable species in North America and it’s in trouble. Monarchs undertake one of the world’s most remarkable migrations, traveling thousands of miles over several generations from Mexico, across the United States, to Canada.

North American monarch butterflies are in trouble. Threats, including climate change, pesticide use and habitat loss are having a devastating impact on their populations and the migration phenomenon. Unless we act now to help the Monarch, this amazing animal could disappear in our lifetime.

Monarchs are now in the process of being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Our hope is that we can implement conservation measures that help the butterfly to the point that we don't have to list it. Learn more about the listing process »

The state of Monarchs reflects the health of the American landscape and its pollinators. Monarch declines are symptomatic of environmental problems that also pose risks to food production, the spectacular natural places that help define our national identity, and our own health. Conserving and connecting habitat for monarchs will benefit many other plants and animals, including critical insect and avian pollinators, and future generations of Americans.

We can save the monarch, but it will take a concerted national effort by everyone.

You can help!

Every place outside, rural or urban, can become an oasis for monarchs and other pollinators. Everyone can participate! We need involvement from everyone, including schools, youth and community groups, businesses, state and local governments. You can make a difference by planting milkweed and nectar plants native to your local area and gardening organically to minimize your impact on native plants. We also need to protect important monarch habitat along roadsides, rights of way, and other public and private lands. By becoming a citizen scientist and monitoring monarchs in your area, you can help educate others about pollinators, conservation and how they can get involved. By enlisting a broad group of partners, from school children to CEOs, we will build a connected conservation constituency to save the monarch.

Learn more and get involved

Monarchs still need your help

Monarch butterflies overwintering near Santa Barbara, California. Photo by Lisa Hupp, USFWS.
Monarch butterflies overwintering near Santa Barbara, California. Photo by Lisa Hupp/USFWS.

Monarch butterflies are astonishing creatures undertaking one of the most epic migrations in the animal kingdom. Beginning around October, they fly from central and northern U.S. states and parts of Canada to Mexico and the coast of California, where they form dense clusters high up in the trees and hunker down for the winter months.

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Learn why the monarch butterfly is in trouble and how you can help

Tagged monarch butterfly. Photo by USFWS.
Tagged monarch butterfly. Photo by USFWS.

The monarch butterfly is one of the most recognizable species in North America and it’s in trouble. Climate change has intensified weather events which may impact monarch populations. Pesticide use can destroy the milkweed monarchs need to survive. Habitat loss and fragmentation has occurred throughout the monarch’s range. You can help!

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How to build a butterfly and pollinator garden in seven steps

Pollinator garden in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo by Courtney Celley, USFWS.
Pollinator garden in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS.

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!

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We need your help - join us to save the monarch

Monarch butterfly on New England aster. Photo by Rick Hansen, USFWS.
Monarch butterfly on New England aster. Photo by Rick Hansen/USFWS.

The monarchs have migrated, but that doesn’t mean conservation takes a break. Now is a great time to be thinking about winter seed prep and planning your garden. This is also the perfect time to inspire others to join in saving the monarch. Share this video with your friends, and help us reach our goal of a healthy and stable monarch population.

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Citizen Scientists’ Data Used to Study Size and Migration of Western Monarch Population

Biologist Jeff Phillips observes roosting monarchs. Photo by Ashley Spratt, USFWS.
Biologist Jeff Phillips observes roosting monarchs. Photo by Ashley Spratt/USFWS.

It happens every year in the weeks surrounding Thanksgiving. Hundreds of citizen scientists rise early and head to the California coast. With their binoculars and clipboards in tow, they examine trees, looking for large clusters of monarch butterflies for the Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count.

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Monarch Migration Connects Kids to Culture and Conservation During 'El Dia de los Muertos' Celebration in Southern California

Monarch artwork by students in California. Photo by Joanna Gilkeson, USFWS.
Monarch artwork by students in California. Photo by Joanna Gilkeson/USFWS.

El Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated each November across Mexico and the United States in remembrance of loved ones who have passed away and to celebrate the annual return of their spirits to Earth.

During this same time of year, one of the world’s most recognizable species - the monarch butterfly - takes a 3,000 mile journey from Canada and the United States to the central highlands of Mexico. Some monarch butterflies migrate west of the Rocky Mountains to coastal California to spend the winter.

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Climate-informed conservation for monarchs

Monarch butterflies at wintering grounds. Photo by AnnMarie Krmpotich, USFWS.
Monarch butterflies at wintering grounds. Photo by AnnMarie Krmpotich/USFWS.

When factoring in climate change, the monarch butterfly’s uncertain future becomes even murkier.

Some monarch traits – a high dispersal ability, short generation time and high reproductive rate – may allow them to easily adapt to climate change. Other characteristics, however, such as migration timing, reproduction requirements and overwintering habitat, rely heavily on temperature cues and may make them vulnerable.

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We've done this before

Monarch butterflies on goldenrod. Photo by Rachel Laubhan, USFWS.
Monarch butterflies on goldenrod. Photo by Rachel Laubhan/USFWS.

A billion monarch butterflies once fluttered across the North American landscape, representing one of the greatest migration phenomena in all of nature. Over the last 20 years, their numbers declined precipitously, with the eastern population falling to a mere 33 million in 2014.

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Have you heard the buzz?

Monarch butterflies on goldenrod. Photo by Rachel Laubhan, USFWS.
A monarch butterfly takes off from a butterfly garden. Photo courtesy of Juan Guerra.

Great things are happening deep in the heart of Texas. The Houston Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership is attracting a lot of interest in the nation’s fourth-largest city from diverse local partners who are helping the Service connect with urban communities and create opportunities for urban residents to “find, value and care for nature.”

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For Senator, monarch conservation starts with mom

U.S. Senator with her mother, Rose. Photo courtesy of Amy Klobuchar.
U.S. Senator with her mother, Rose. Photo courtesy of Amy Klobuchar.

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota is one of the leading voices for monarch conservation in Congress. She wrote this column for the spring issue of Fish & Wildlife News.

The monarch butterfly is one of America’s most iconic species, but it might not be around for future generations to enjoy if we do not come together to protect it.

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Monarch caterpillar on common milkweed in Minnesota. Photo by Courtney Celley, USFWS.
Monarch caterpillar on common milkweed in Minnesota. Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS.

Resources

Initiatives

Partnerships

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 multiple partners throughout North America to enhance our conservation efforts to provide a future filled with monarchs.

Monarch egg on common milkweed in Minnesota. Photo by Joanna Gilkeson, USFWS.
Monarch egg on common milkweed in Minnesota. Photo by Joanna Gilkeson/USFWS.

Conservation across the country

Learn more about monarch conservation in your part of the world.