Experts talk about the threat of the monarch butterfly | Top stories


WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) – A new addition to the endangered species list could mean that a beautiful summer friend could soon be extinct.

Monarch butterflies are known for their distinctive black and orange coloring and unique migratory patterns.

They migrate from northeastern North America south to Mexico. This is a process that experts have expressed concern about.

“Really, it’s a phenomenon that is endangered at most, even more so than the species itself.” said Owen Boyle, of Wisconsin DNR.

Monarch butterfly populations have fallen by around 90% in the past 30 years, figures experts have attributed to habitat loss and climate change.

“So what we see are droughts in the United States in the spring, which can affect reproduction as generations jump north to Wisconsin, we can see the impacts of droughts or bad weather, or habitat destruction in the fall.” said Paul Whitaker, professor of biology at UWSP Wausau.

Part of this habitat loss is lack of food, monarch caterpillars can only eat species of milkweed, a plant whose population has steadily declined over the years.

“Adult butterflies feed on the nectar of many different flowers, so milkweed is essential for reproduction,” said Whitaker,

Milkweed populations have declined due to the use of herbicides and pesticides, and smaller populations have raised concerns about migration patterns.

“If the numbers get too low, it’s unclear if they’ll be able to sustain this kind of epic trip every year.” said Whitaker.

Experts said people can help by planting milkweed or native plants in yards, gardens or even pots on porches.


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