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How to Help Save the Monarch Butterflies

Kristen Howe loves butterflies. She's passionate about saving all endangered species and devoted to wildlife conservation at her local zoo.

The Monarch Butterflies Needs Our Help to Save Them

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Sending Out an SOS: Save Our Species

For the past two decades, the Monarch butterfly population have been declining rapidly at eighty percent. Late last year, it was listed on the waiting list at the International Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The criteria to become listed as an endangered species, are to have its population collapsing within the fifty years, and have a 90% probability for the western population. On July 21st, 2022, the Monarch butterfly had been listed as an endangered species on the IUCN’s Red list. Back in 2008, it was once listed as vulnerable. In August 2014, the status changed to threatened. They now need our help to keep their population alive and thriving. Under the Endangered taxon, all studies showed the best available evidence to meet any of the criteria, and therefore considered to face a precarious high risk of global extinction in the wild. If we don’t do anything about it right now, it might become listed as critically endangered, extinct in the wild, and later extinct in the future.

Monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico from October to March every year. They need a place to rest their wings after a long flight, lay their eggs on milkweed, and drink flower nectar. Though it’s been nominated as a potential candidate at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it hasn’t been listed or proposed as a listed species to receive state or federal protection.

Say No to Toxic Chemical Pesticides

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Top Five Causes for Concern

What’s causing the Monarch butterfly population to decline every year to this alarming state?

1. Pesticides and herbicides use. From gardens to forests, and farmlands, people are spraying toxic chemicals on the flower petals to protect themselves from pests and insects and to prevent diseases, while it’s slowly killing the larvae and the caterpillars that feeds on the nectar every day.

2. Global climate control and extreme weather. In a recent study at Biologicaldiversity.org, climate change was the most influential predictor for their widespread decline in the past couple decades. This caused them to have stress during their migratory flight through longer, warmer months as they prepare for their overwintering stage. Forest fires, high temperatures, flooding, drought, and excessive rain were all factored in as global climate and extreme weather conditions throughout the past couple years.

3.Urban sprawl, a form of urban development. It ranged from higher water and air pollution, road congestion and lack of affordable housing, loss of agricultural capacity, increased car dependency, and greenhouse gas emissions among other considerable factors. Sprawl goes beyond population density, and is a complex situation for wildlife and for people to have harmful health concerns in those areas. It consumed all the forests, farmlands, woods, and wetlands, while leaving vacant stores, closed businesses, increased traffic congestion and jams, and environmental deflation in its toxic path.

4. Illegal logging in forests and loss of habitat. When it happened to our environment, it causes forest degradation, the loss of biodiversity, and the emissions of greenhouse gases. Illegal logging is when you buy cheaper illegal timber that has been smuggled across the border to another country, and a lack of law environment that might be corrupted, due to a loss of revenue and taxes. It might also cause the price of timber to buy wood for construction and other projects to go higher, especially now due to the supply chain crisis we had since last year. The Monarch butterflies loses their habitat in Mexico during their winter migration as a resting place.

5. Roadside mortality. This happens when their habitats are fragmented at the meadow medians, becoming roadkill in the process from passing vehicles along the highways, going at least seventy miles per hour, or even more. The same could be said for dragonflies and insects too.

Plant Milkweed in Your Balcony Gardens and Yards

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Call For Action

1. Avoid using pesticides and herbicides, and buy only organic material that’s safer for you, wildlife, and the environment at work, and home. Be proactive and contact your local home improvement stores like Menards, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware, and Home Depot. Ask if they would limit the purchase of chemical herbicides, and consider buying eco-friendly products. Contact companies that produce them and inform them to make environmental-safe pesticides and herbicides instead. Notify farms, local, state, and national parks and forests, to spray organic material on their crops and plants. If they don’t, make noise via email, social media, phone, fax, text, or snail mail letter. Contact your local government officials, including your Parks and Recreation Department, and ask them to ban all use of toxic pesticides, herbicides, and even insecticides.

A month ago, I saw an infomercial advertising about a lawsuit against Paraquat Pesticides. Studies showed, it can cause Parkinson’s Disease for applicators, farmers, and those who live in those residential areas. Another reason why pesticides shouldn’t be used since it’s also bad for our health.

2. Help save the grasslands by protecting and restoring the wetlands, rotating crops, and planting trees for grazing. This provides the adult butterflies with milkweed plants among other nectar plants like Chives, Siberian Wallflower, and May Night Salvia to name a few. These precious grasslands are disappearing fast and turned into croplands and land developments. Join the fight with the National Wildlife Federation to tell our local Planning, Zoning, and Urban Department to leave them be and work around the grasslands.

3. Support the Highway Habitat Corridor to prevent future roadside mortality for butterflies to fly over bridges and roads. This includes crossings, nature highways, railways, rivers, and roads. Inform your local Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Department of Commerce, to build natural habitat corridors for butterflies and other animals to cross over when they travel across water, land, and air.

4. Create a Monarch Habitat. You can raise them indoors to protect them from predators outdoors. It can teach science, and the environment at home and school, when you watch them grow from larvae to a caterpillar, and later to an adult butterfly. At NWF’s Garden for Wildlife, it shows you how to grow them in early fall and over winter by buying nectar flowers like Spider, Purple, and Common Milkweed. All you have to do is provide food, water, cover, and places to raise the butterflies. Grow a habitat garden in container pots at home, at work, or even in community gardens. Or maintain natural habitats with various milkweed plants.Just don’t use Tropical Milkweed, and the debatable butterfly bush, which are toxic for the butterflies to eat and feed their young. These vulnerable orange butterflies have three to four growth cycles a year. And when you build a monarch waystation habitat, register them with Monarchwatch.org.

5. Avoid Buying GMO foods. Those chemical pesticides endangers human health and damage our ecosystems. Buy food that’s 100% organic, labeled organic, or made with organic ingredients. Choose whole foods you can make that’s not processed or prepackaged. Look for non-GMO or GMO-free labels, and avoid at-risk ingredients like corn, beet sugar, soy, canola, and cotton. Purchase grass-fed beef, and shop at your local farmer’s markets, Community-Supported Agriculture sites, or cooperative farms.

6. Stop climate change by speaking out to others. Start with your friends, family, co-workers and colleagues, and whole community. Alert your local government officials to stop climate change to save our planet. Show your support via social media networks with numerous hashtags for the cause. Ask them to put it on the ballot for the next election to vote for that cause to go into effect. On August 7th, 2022, The Senate passed the Climate, Health, and Tax Bill. Encourage your local Republican government officials to pass it in the House before President Biden can sign it.

7. Opt for Renewable resources. Choosing a utility company that generates power with renewable energy like wind or solar. If you don’t have one available, look at your monthly statements for your electric bill and on their website. They would list other ways to support renewable sources as an alternative option. Weatherize your home by sealing drafts, and checking to see if it’s insulated correctly, or claim federal tax credits for energy-efficient home improvements. Invest in buying energy-efficient appliances like fridges, heat pump water heaters, washers and dryers, and other appliances. If you rent an apartment or condo, ask your building manager to consider installing Energy Star appliances. When you dispose of old appliances, recycle them in a disposal program.

8. Reduce Water Waste and Compost Food. Consider taking shorter showers, turning off the tap while brushing teeth, and switching to Water-Sense-labeled fixtures and appliances. Eat the food you want and compost uneaten wood. When you recycle food and other organic waste, it improves the soil, recycles the nutrients, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigates harmful impacts from drought.

9. Buy LED Light Bulbs and Power Down Devices. Switch to LED light bulbs to illuminate your home. They’re cheaper and last ten times longer by using Energy Star-labeled LED light bulbs. This would prevent seven billion pounds of carbon pollution every year. Unplug unused or fully charged devices into outlets, plug them into power strips and timers, and adjust computer monitors to power down to the lowest power mode when not in use.

10. Money-Saving Transportation Modes. To save money and fuel, consider purchasing and driving a gas-smart vehicles like hybrids and fully electric cars. Take your car to a tune-up for gas, tires, and a new air filter. Use roof racks and clam shell storage containers to reduce fuel efficiency by 5%, and remove unnecessary accessories from your roof. If you fly less, you can save money on fuel to reduce air pollution. Consider riding with your local Port Transportation Authority's trains, subways, and buses, or driving your car. Or take a stroll if you like in a walkable town to go places. If you have to fly, look into buying carbon offsets to counterbalance carbon pollution.

11. Remember to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Reduce the trash by composting them into bins and not into landfills. Reuse unwanted items by upcycling them into something new for home or to sell. And recycle glasses, plastic, papers, and cardboard into the right bins. Check your local municipality to find the nearest location, if your apartment building or condo doesn’t have one, or invest in having a recycling bin by your trash cans at your home.

12. Help save the forests by buying FSC-Certified Wood for your lumber. The Forest Stewardship Council certifies the wood by marking the lumber that's responsibly managed forests that provide social, environmental, and economic benefits globally across the world. This prevents buyers from illegal loggers from poaching wooded acres to use for their profits. Monarchs rely on Mexican forests to rest as a winter habitat, and need a resting place for when they return from a long migratory flight.

13. Join the fight! Want to help save the monarch butterflies? Check out non-profit organizations that are devoted to the cause and are dedicated to researching and communicating the plight. Donate money to pledge, volunteer your time, learn how to build a habitat, or grow milkweed plants and other nectar flowers in your area. Visit Monarch Watch, Save Our Monarchs, and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to learn more. Spread the word by educating and informing others to help protect the monarchs via email, phone, social media, text, snail mail, and even in person.


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Take Flight For a Good Fight

With these ten simple steps, we can all do our part to save the monarch butterflies from becoming extinct in the future. Our small effort would go a long way to preserve these beautiful species from vanishing in our world. So let’s start right now and take flight for a good fight!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Kristen Howe

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