The Great Monarch Massacre (and What You Can Do to Stop It)

The Great Monarch Massacre (and What You Can Do to Stop It)

Growing up in south central Kansas in the 1980s, I used to marvel at the elegant beauty of the monarch butterflies each spring as they migrated north.

Sometimes I’d sit motionless in the tallgrass prairie, quietly hoping one would choose to rest on my outstretched hand. More often, though, I’d race after these black and orange-winged butterflies, laughing as I tried in vein to catch one.

Sadly, the sight of monarchs flitting above the prairie is far more rare these days.

Monarch Butterfly. Source: Flickr user SidPix.

Monarch Butterfly. Source: Flickr user SidPix.

Threats to Monarch Butterflies

One billion monarchs once fluttered across North America, but disappearing habitat, climate change, pesticides, and other threats reduced their numbers to just 56.5 million by 2015. (1) In fact, researchers have documented a decline of more than 80 percent in the number of monarchs in central Mexico and 74 percent in coastal California. (2)

The monarch’s dramatic decline is not only a profound loss of natural beauty — it also has serious implications for our environment. Monarchs play an increasingly important role in pollinating wild flowers and other plants and are an important food source for many birds. (3)

While monarch numbers have rebounded slightly in recent years thanks to increased awareness of their plight, proactive efforts by the federal government and private landowners, this beautiful butterfly’s ultimate fate is far from certain.

Monarchs need milkweed to survive. Unfortunately, widespread use of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide has destroyed much of the milkweed that monarchs need to survive. (4) But Roundup is just one of the threats these vital pollinators face. Commonly used pesticides can unintentionally kill these butterflies. Harsh winters have caused larger than usual die-offs. And logging — legal and illegal — has deprived monarchs of winter habitat. (5)

How You Can Help Save Monarch Butterflies

Monarch butterflies have a special and vital place in our ecosystems — and in our hearts. To ensure that these beautiful creatures are around for future generations to enjoy, we must safeguard their future.

In 2015, then-President Obama’s administration announced an ambitious plan to protect monarchs (6), but more action is needed. (7) That’s why Environmental Action has joined with conservation advocates across America to urge the federal government to protect monarch butterflies under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Listing monarch butterflies under the ESA is the single best way to ensure the survival of these butterflies. It will protect monarchs from pesticides and herbicides that can harm them and safeguard the vital feeding and breeding habitat monarchs need to survive.

You can help save our monarch butterflies — just click here to add your name to our petition urging the federal government to protect monarch butterflies under the Endangered Species Act.

With your help, we can help monarchs recover — and restore an inspiring source of natural beauty for children of all ages.


(1) US Fish and Wildlife Service, Nov. 3., 2016.­this­before.html
(2) The Xerxes Society, retrieved online Feb. 2, 2016
(3) One Green Planet, Jan. 28, 2015­the­butterfly­can­shape­an­ecosystem­and­why­we­nee d­to­protect­them/
(4) Yale Environment 360, April
(5) The Xerxes Society, Ibid.
(6) The Washington Post, May 21, 2015.­mix/wp/2015/05/21/the­white­house­plan­to­save­the­mo narch­butterfly­build­a­butterfly­highway/?utm_term=.5ce299cc91fd
(7) The Center for Biological Diversity, March 10, 2016­butterfly­03­10­2016.html