On July 22, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) added the migratory monarch butterfly to its “Red List” of threatened species and classified it as endangered.
Jaret Daniels, University of Florida entomologist and curator for lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History, is a butterfly expert who frequently educates on conservation practices to protect the monarch and other butterfly species.
Below, he addresses a few questions amid the latest news on the monarch.
Q. What does being on the endangered species list mean for the monarch butterfly?
A. The IUCN Red List assesses the conservation status and extinction risk of species. Adding the monarch helps draw significant attention to the butterfly’s plight and helps catalyze conservation action.
Q. Does this mean the monarch butterfly is in imminent risk of extinction?
A. No, it is not in imminent risk of extinction. The listing basically means that the monarch is threatened with extinction, especially if current threats continue and are not mitigated.
Q. How can people at home help with the monarch butterfly population?
A. Habitat loss is a contributing driver of monarch decline. Thus, helping provide resources to support the entire life cycle of the monarch such as host plants (e.g. milkweed) for developing larvae and flowering plants that provide nectar for adult butterflies is important. This can be easily accomplished in any yard or neighborhood. We all can play a role.
Q. How does the monarch migration play a role in preserving the species?
A. The annual long-distance fall migration of the eastern monarch population is one of the most spectacular natural events on Earth. As the monarch cannot survive freezing winter temperatures, it migrates southward up to 3,000 miles to overwinter. It then recolonizes much of the U.S. and southern Canada each spring and summer.
Daniels has authored multiple books related to the subject, from “Butterflies of the South and Southeast” and “Your Florida Guide to Butterfly Gardening” for adults, to educational children’s books for reading (“Backyard Bugs”) and coloring (“Keep Monarchs Safe”).