They are immediately distinguishable by the two pairs of black veined, white-streaked, brilliant orange wings. The Monarch butterfly makes an incredible journey of around 3,000 miles from Southern Canada to the mountainous Mexican forests, their winter habitat. But this long migration of the beautiful creatures, one of the longest migrations of insects, may soon be a thing of the past.
But since the 1900s, close to a billion monarch butterflies have vanished, a staggering decrease of 90% in Central Mexico. The decline is, even more, staggering in coastal California with a decline of 99% in the population of the Monarch butterfly.
The Monarch Butterfly Is Nearly Extinct In Many Regions
Only around a mere 30 million remain as the destruction of the milkweeds that used to be abundant along their migratory routes have vanished. An increase in the use of pesticides and the expanding construction activities has encroached on the Monarch Butterfly’s habitat.
The figures put the Monarch Butterfly close to extinction, say researchers. An annual count recorded less than 2,000 in California, a far cry from the massed movement once seen over the skies of and in the trees stretching from Northern California to San Diego down south in the 80s.
The Monarch butterfly goes south to California and Northern Mexico from the Northwest Pacific every winter. They return to the same region, and even trees in clusters to beat the cold. They start arriving in November and then spread out in March as the weather gets warmer.
The second population of the Monarch butterfly moves from the northeast US and the southern parts of Canada to the east of the Rockies, finally moving to central Mexico for the winter. The fall in the population of the butterflies has been much more in the western parts of the continent.
The study by the environmental organization, The Xerces Society, a non-profit, has recorded only around 27,000 to 29,000 in the past two years. And it has been worse in 2020, with non a single sighting in Pacific Grove, an iconic wintering site for the Monarch butterfly.
The destruction of their milkweed habitat along their habitat of over 3,000 is slowly driving the insects towards extinction. The butterflies are not protected under any federal or state laws and it will be years before any action is expected. It may be too late by then.