The Monarch Butterfly is known for its incredible migration across North America, flying 2,000-3,000 miles. A single butterfly can travel as far as 100 miles a day during its migration south to warmer climates where it can survive during winter months.
Despite females being able to lay around 500 eggs at a time, populations have declined by 90% over the past 20 years. This decline has been related to a number of factors, including a storm in 2002 that wiped out around 500 million monarchs. However, climate change and agriculture are seen as major contributors to Monarch’s overall decline.
Why do they matter?
Monarchs are iconic species across North America and act as key pollinators for many types of wildflowers. Because of human interest in these species, we have been able to track their decline and apply it to similar species.
The decline of the monarch is an indicator that environmental changes are occurring, and once common species need safeguarding.
Monarchs are key pollinators for wildflowers across North America and as such, we can apply what is happening to their population to other species as well. The use of herbicides, development of urban areas, and conversion of natural grasslands for agriculture contribute to the decline of monarchs and other insect populations integral to properly functioning ecosystems.
Will climate change affect the Monarch? Yes.
As a result of climate change, Monarchs will continue to face extreme weather events like those in 2002 that took out large populations. Additionally, Monarchs will have to adapt to environmental cues that indicate optimal times to migrate, feed and reproduce.