The monarch butterfly ( Danaus plexippus ) is an invertebrate of the Nymphalidae family that is characterized, among other things, by making intergenerational migrations from the United States and Canada to Mexico every year. However, these attractively colored little insects are in danger of extinction, as are many other species today.
In the following AgroCorrn article we explain why the monarch butterfly is in danger of extinction and we also share with you how we can prevent the extinction of this species.
- Why is the monarch butterfly in danger of extinction – causes
- Monarch butterfly characteristics
- How to avoid the extinction of the monarch butterfly
Why is the monarch butterfly in danger of extinction – causes
The monarch butterfly is listed as “critically endangered” by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources). The causes that explain why the monarch butterfly is in danger of extinction are:
Climate change could be responsible for modifying the migratory patterns of the monarch butterfly, something that is due to the changes in climatic conditions that this entails. Both the decrease in temperatures in winter and their increase in summer could have lethal effects and cause the habitats suitable for this species to move towards higher latitudes. Under abnormal drought conditions, there may be a higher mortality rate among adult butterflies in the breeding area (United States and Canada), as well as a lower amount of food available for the caterpillars, which would mean fewer migrant individuals.
During 2013, Mexico had the lowest number of wintering monarch butterflies in twenty years. Currently there are about 35 million butterflies that occupy approximately 1.7 hectares (very few compared to the 45 hectares they occupied in 1996).
The changing climate could have had a very negative impact; During the spring of 2012, the United States had significantly higher temperatures than the average for that time, which resulted in an early migration of monarch butterflies to cooler environments, long before the milkweed plants (essential food for the caterpillars) would have emerged. On the other hand, in 2013 there was a colder climate than normal, which was an obstacle in their migration to the north. Climate changes can lead, in turn, to the spread of parasites, bacterial infections and diseases that affect monarch butterfly populations.
Loss of habitat
During winter, North American populations inhabit the mountain forests of central Mexico and the California coast. However, these forests are under anthropic pressure from intensive tourist visits, illegal logging and certain agricultural activities by local communities. For its part, in North America, the habitats where monarch butterflies breed and feed are affected by the excessive use of herbicides in cultivated fields.. These ruin the natural habitat and end up with the main food of the caterpillars of this species: milkweed. By 1999, approximately 97% of milkweed plants had been eradicated in the western prairies. In California, butterflies occupy areas covered with eucalyptus trees, especially Eucalyptus globulus , which are reduced by excessive logging.
Monarch butterfly characteristics
So that you become a little more familiar with this species, from UNCOMO we want to share with you some characteristics of the monarch butterfly:
- The monarch butterfly is native to America (North and South), although it has spread to Australia, New Zealand, the island of Mauritius, several Pacific islands, and some areas of western Europe.
- The American populations carry out an annual migration that covers between 1,900 and 4,500 kilometers of displacement , starting from the east and west of North America to the mountains of central Mexico and the coast of California, respectively.
- In central Mexico, they seek refuge in the forests of the mountains and spend the winter there, as there are more suitable climatic conditions for their survival. In Mexico there is the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve , a place that has 56,259 hectares. In addition, it is the place where up to a billion butterflies from eastern North America flock every fall. The reserve protects these key areas for the species and thus allows this migratory phenomenon to continue.
- In spring, the butterflies resume their migration back to the north. Just before leaving, reproduction takes place and, once they reach the breeding grounds, the females lay their eggs on milkweed plants. The egg and larva phase lasts about two weeks, after which the larvae enter a pupal stage and, after a period of nine to fifteen days, an adult emerges.
- Adults have a life expectancy of between four and five weeks , so that the original individuals who began the migration from the United States are not the same as those who return after winter, but will be the descendants belonging to the second or third generation.
- The larvae feed on milkweed, a plant of the Asclepiadaceae family that provides them with cardiac glycosides. Adults feed on nectar.
- Adults are characterized by having two pairs of orange or reddish wings, with a black venation and white spots along the edges. These colors serve to warn potential predators about their impalatability.
If you want to discover more Characteristics of butterflies: where they live, what they eat, types and curiosities , be sure to visit this other AgroCorrn article.
How to avoid the extinction of the monarch butterfly
To prevent the extinction of the monarch butterfly, it is important to work to conserve the habitats that this animal occupies. The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve receives more than half of the wintering colonies of the eastern population every year, therefore, to maintain this migratory phenomenon, it is necessary to carry out good management and maintenance of these forests , as well as of the microclimates that they generate. It is essential to prevent any type of threat to these ecosystems (such as illegal logging by the local community), which is why the development of new forms of economic income for the population can be promoted, such as through the support of nurseries. dedicated to restoring forests in the reserve.
In addition, it is necessary to generate concerted action plans between state and local agencies to work together with local communities to benefit the protection of the environment. At the same time, sustainable tourism should be promoted to these places, since the increase in tourist visits requires greater infrastructure. This implies an exhaustive control over the possible impacts to the ecosystem and fostering the support of the local community for the conservation of the reserve and, therefore, of the species. In addition, it is firmly believed that the monarch butterfly maintenance and conservation project should involve all the countries through which this insect passes on its migratory route.
From AgroCorrn we invite you to also read this article on Why it is important to protect animals in danger of extinction . In addition, here below we leave you an interesting video about the characteristics of butterflies and several curiosities about these incredible species.
If you want to read more articles similar to Why is the monarch butterfly in danger of extinction , we recommend that you enter our category of Endangered Animals .
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