It’s been widely reported in media of late that the beautiful Monarch butterfly is in serious decline all throughout North America and very much in danger of extinction. There were about one billion of them not so many years ago, and had been for hundreds of years, or more. Experts estimate that number dwindled to, by 2014, as low as 35 milllion.
That’s a loss of more than 95 percent.
Early this year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partnered with the National Wildlife Federation in an iniative to save the Monarch. Their website is coordinating efforts from organizations, groups and individuals, including schools. Among other efforts, they plant milkweed, the Monarch food source, in fields, forests and back yards all over the country. And this summer The David Suzuki Foundation in Canada has launced a project to help restore the Monarch to greater numbers.
All of these groups and many others, such as the U.S. Center for Food Safety, agree that the major problem that the Monarch butterfly has been faced with is current agricultural practices, in particular a product called Roundup Ready, marketed by, you guessed it, Monsanto. Introduced to the market in 1973, Roundup destroys weeds and commercial crops can then grow unmolested.
The main ingredient in Roundup Ready is Glyphosate, and despite its widespread use in North America and the world, its effect on humans, on other animals and on the environment, is very much under debate. Crops are genetically modified by Monsanto to become Roundup Ready; modified, they can survive Roundup — weeds, including, of course, milkweed, cannot.
No milkweed means nowhere for Monarch butterflys to lay their eggs when they travel up from their winter habitat in Mexico. For the Monarch lay their eggs on milkweed leaves and caterpillars hatch, eat the milkweed and by the summer are transforming themselves into butterflies. The butterflys keep eating milkweed to prepare for their trip to Mexico to winter.
Here are the three things the Suzuki foundation asks you, or a group you are a part of, to do in order to help bring back the Monarch: 1) grow milkweed; 2) report monarch sightings to the foundation and 3) refrain from using pesticides on your property.
Save for signing their manifesto on their website, that’s all they ask. But the Suzuki Foundation, whose staff are making ongoing forays into fields and forests to see how the Monarch butterfly is doing in Canada now, believes that if Canadians jump on board to their initiative the Monarch’s numbers will grow each year.
They report numbers may hit a threshold they set…but add that the threshold is very low.