CHARLESTON, WV (WVNS) — As kids, we always ran after them and tried to catch them, even dressed up as them for Halloween. As an adult we love to admire them. The nostalgic beautiful orange and black colors always come to mind when we think about these flying creatures.
If you were thinking of a Monarch Butterfly, then you thought right. But the unfortunate truth is that these insects have officially made their spot on the Endangered Species list.
There are many possibilities as to why these insects are in danger of going extinct. According to Rakesh Chandran, Professor at West Virginia University and Extension Specialist with the Agriculture and Natural Resources Unit of the WVU Extension Service, he addressed the fact that the Monarch Butterfly has a weed that is their natural host, where they lay eggs, and live, which could be a factor in why they are disappearing so quickly.
“There is a concern, due to active management of field production, for the common milkweed, when using herbicides, the populations of Milkweed have gone down, and subsequently, the host species for the Monarch Butterfly has gone down. Now it is not scientifically proven, there’s no strong data to support that, but it is a possibility,” said Chandran, in which he hypothesized as a possibility for the insect.
He continued, saying there are other factors that my be involved such as their migration patterns, parasites that infect Milkweed, and concern about insecticide use saying that Monarchs are not a common pest. Monarchs can respond negatively to insecticides as other pests do, and cause confusion in which the Monarch will not recognize the plant and could possibly lay their eggs and get sustenance from elsewhere.
The Monarch Butterfly also plays a very important role for the world we live in, especially in our ecosystem and way of life.
Crescent Gallagher, the Director of Communications and Business Development at the West Virginia Department of Agriculture said, “The Monarch Butterfly is an important pollinator. So that means it’s crucial to our food ecosystem as it transfers all nation to one plant to another. It’s also crucial for our forests because many of our species that are in our forests require those pollinators to help them grow or move throughout the forests that spread, so the monarch butterfly is a crucial pollinator, one of the few pollinators we have in West Virginia to help more forests and farm our ecosystems.”
There is also still clarification about the Monarch Butterfly and several other factors, which has caused the decrease of the Monarch Butterfly nationwide.
“The Monarch Butterflies were listed as an endangered species for the International Union for Conservation of Measure Group, so this is one of the most important comprehensive scientific authorities, however, the one who had decided which animals or plants are on the list of endangered species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, don’t have the Monarch Butterfly yet on the list, so if they don’t have that, legally the U.S. cannot protect this Monarch yet, clarified Carlos Quesada, Extension Assistant Professor with West Virginia University.
Quesada also stated, “The butterfly population has changed from year to year. Sometimes there are some natural factors, like a big storm that can kill the butterflies, or overwintering locations, so that reduced the number of butterflies that migrate to the United States significantly. However, if you compare numbers like 20 years ago versus 2010, the number of butterflies have been reduced by 60 percent, so to put that in a number, if you have a count where in 2002 you have 20 butterflies, in 2010 you will only have 6,” which he said is due to habitats being disrupted while the butterflies are going to one migration site to the another, usually from Mexico to the United States.
There is still hope though for the Monarch Butterfly species. There are still so much more we can do to save this beautiful insect and hopefully try to keep it off the endangered species list.
“The important thing is that there is still time to act. We need to protect monarch overwintering sites, conserve their remaining habitat, and create new habitat in our public lands, farms, and home gardens,” said Deborah Seiler, Communications Director, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
“Everyone has a role to play in protecting this species from extinction. If you live in an area with monarch butterflies, you can plant native milkweed species for the caterpillars and native nectar flowers for the adults, and protect these animals from pesticide exposure. There are also many great community science projects to help track the monarch population, Western Monarch Count and the Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper,” Explained Seiler, urging that there is still time to save these wonderful insects and how you can take part in making a positive impact for the saving the species.
So remember, the surviving species of the Monarch Butterfly are impacting the lives of the world as well. everything we do counts and every little bit makes a significant difference to our livelihood of our world and the ecosystem.