December 31, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)--Monarch butterflies may warrant protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service states. Monarch populations have dropped up to 90 percent in the last 20 years due to loss of milkweed plants that the butterflies need to lay their eggs and nourish caterpillars that emerge from cocoons.
Loss of milkweek plants is linked to the increase of genetically engineered crops that are herbicide resistant but kill native vegetation including milkweed, conservation groups report.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife plans a year-long review to determine whether Monarchs should be added to the list of federally protected species. A petition seeking endangered species status for Monarchs was submitted by the Xerces Society.
The annual migration of Monarch butterflies from Canada and the Eastern United States to Mexico thousands of miles to the south is one of nature’s most dazzling spectacles. But the number of butterflies counted in the Mexico wintering grounds has fallen sharply, alarming wildlife experts.
Logging and use of pesticides in Monarch habitat along the Pacific coast and Mexico are also factors, as well as development that has destroyed habitat.