The last migration of the monarch butterflies?

The last migration of the monarch butterflies?

By Jennifer Newman, content creator

In the 1980s, about 4.5 million monarch butterflies wintered in California. This year? There were only about 30,000.

I grew up in the Bay Area in the 1990s—monarchs were an important part of my childhood. I want them to be a part of my children’s memories, too.

Seeing a monarch butterfly takes me right back to being a child. Monarchs flew to California every winter season.

Newman in monarch sanctuary

Environmental Action staff member Jen Newman at the Pacific Grove Monarch Sanctuary in California this December

I took many trips to monarch sanctuaries in Santa Cruz and Monterey with my classmates, where we learned about their lifecycle, epic migration, and even why they have their color (to warn potential predators that they are dangerous!).

But these butterflies are vanishing. We need all hands on deck if we’re going to save them. Alarmingly, the population of monarch butterflies that spent the winter in California was less than 0.5 percent of its historical size—and this year’s population was down by roughly 86 percent compared to 2017.

These butterflies face threats from all angles, including pesticides such as Roundup killing milkweed—the monarchs’ main habitat and the only food source for their caterpillars—and the impacts of climate change.

"How Can I Help Monarchs?" Sign

A sign in the Pacific Grove Monarch Sanctuary, explaining that you can help by planting native milkweed and wildflowers, avoiding pesticides, and helping preserve open spaces for the monarch’s journey.

For years, Environmental Action has been running strategic campaigns to save these amazing creatures, including:

• Petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list monarch butterflies as an endangered species—a level of protection that has a 99% success rate.

• Urging the Environmental Protection Agency to ban Roundup, which kills the milkweed plant.

• Calling for an end to the deforestation that is destroying monarch habitats

• Working to combat climate change—which impacts monarchs’ ability to migrate and their ability to use milkweed to survive.

Monarch butterflies through a telescope

The monarch butterflies overwintering in the sanctuary on the coast of Northern California The monarch butterflies overwintering in the sanctuary on the coast of Northern California

It’s clear that monarch butterflies need a coordinated and strategic effort to make sure they are able to stick around for generations to come—and ensure our children and their children know the joy of these butterflies. And, together, we’re working hard to save them.