More Needs to be Done to Save the Monarch Butterfly

More Needs to be Done to Save the Monarch Butterfly title=
More Needs to be Done to Save the Monarch Butterfly
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By Sylvia Fallon, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

The western US population of monarch butterflies crashed this year. The eastern population experienced a welcome increase, but experts attribute this rebound primarily to favorable weather patterns rather than changed conditions on the ground and warn that continued efforts to reduce pesticide use and increase milkweed and other nectar sources are needed to ensure the eastern population of monarch butterflies continues above the threshold of collapse. Despite the continued concern about the future of the monarch population, the United States is likely to view this year’s news as a success and scale back its efforts to help the beleaguered monarchs. Instead, the US needs to do more—and the international community should hold them to it since the actions of the US threaten the internationally recognized World Heritage Site of Mexico’s Monarch Biosphere Reserve.

Several years ago, in response to the decline of monarch butterflies, NRDC and our partner organizations in Mexico and Canada sent a petition to the United Nations World Heritage Committee requesting that the Monarch Biosphere Reserve be designated as “in danger” due primarily to actions in the US that are contributing to the decline. Since then UNESCO (the international body that oversees World Heritage Sites) has intensified their monitoring of the condition of the monarch butterfly reserve requesting that Mexico submit reports outlining their actions to protect the reserve from various threats. For the most part, Mexico has responded by enumerating the actions they have taken to protect the site from threats within Mexico such as logging and potential mine development. 

However, last year UNESCO conducted a site visit to the Monarch Biosphere reserve and determined that “loss of breeding habitat (milkweed host plants) in the United States of America” was a prominent threat to the reserve and the international body encouraged Mexico to continue its cooperation with the US and Canada “to minimize the loss and to restore the range of native milkweed species in the United States of America.” This is welcome news and exactly what our petition was designed to do—to draw international attention to the decline of monarch butterflies and spur action towards their recovery. However, all of the actions from UNESCO thus far have been directed at Mexico as the host of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve World Heritage Site, rather than the United States which is responsible for much of the decline of butterflies.

It may be an unusual situation that the actions of one country are causing the threat to another country’s World Heritage Site, but UNESCO should apply its influence on the country that is causing the greatest threat rather than just the country that hosts the site. The international parties that make up the World Heritage Committee will be meeting this Summer to review the status of the sites including the Monarch Butterfly Reserve. They should take this opportunity to draw attention to the actions of the United States and to call directly on the US to step up their efforts to reduce pesticide use and increase pollinator habitat throughout the migratory pathway of the monarch butterfly. The US needs to know that its actions are threatening a site that has universal value to the entire international community. 

You can tell the Director of UNESCO to call on the US to take action to protect monarch butterflies here.

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a-1557814529 May 13, 2019 11:15 PM
More Needs to be Done to Save the Monarch Butterfly

As long ago as four years back I posted on Ed about Home Improvement selling toxic milkweed. I was at the H.I. store a few days ago and saw a raft of starter milkweed plants and no evidence at all of nibbled leaves or yellow aphids. The plants looked almost plastic in their appearance, they were so definitely loaded with pesticides. (You will ALWAYS have yellow aphids on your milkweed-----I am of the belief that they somehow work symbiotically with the weed. And you will see beetles seemingly nurturing the milkweed seed pods; all very UNharmful to the milkweed.) Don't buy ANY plants from Home Improvement or Home Depot unless you absolutely don't care if your plants (flowering ones, especially) will add toxicity to your garden. Start from organic seed if you can or else make sure to buy from Island Seed & Feed or a place which sells non-toxic plants. Knapp Nursery? Not sure. You'll have to ask. For those of you who have a hard time saying "neonicotinoids," you can just call them "neonics." Same thing.

Icre84U May 13, 2019 06:43 PM
More Needs to be Done to Save the Monarch Butterfly

I don't know anything about neonicotinoids. Or butterflies, for that matter.
But I tore out my yard (3/4 ac) about 20 years ago and over three years planted thousands of native plants, many "baby sized liners" from Tree of Life (San Juan Capistrano) and some seeds from S&S Seeds (Carpinteria.) Before long, the gopher problem went away due to mating Kestrals and Egrets. A pair of mating bobcats also took up residence. Poverty weed grew where nothing else would. Bladderpod attracted Orioles (and weird beatles). Ceanothus for basic ground cover, and lots of black sage, encelia, baccharis (Pigeon Point), and lots of other plants to round it out. In the past 10 years, annocedatally speaking, a decline in butterfly populations but this year butterfly population has exploded. Whether or not this is due to food, climate conditions, or other factors I cannot say. But Mother Nature is amazing in her ability to resist and adapt - I take the long view . I don't spray anything so my yard is not a good datum point regarding neonicotinoids. I do believe in pollination and there are a couple of resident bee hives, their population has varied over the years.

a-1557814795 May 13, 2019 11:19 PM
More Needs to be Done to Save the Monarch Butterfly

ICRE84U. If you have a "beatle" in your garden, I would sure love to meet him. Is it Ringo or Paul?-----Just joking with you. I applaud and laud your wonderful garden work. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a garden pesticide-free and teeming with happy wildlife. **Thank you** for making your little piece of land a paradise.

Red Creek May 13, 2019 05:12 PM
More Needs to be Done to Save the Monarch Butterfly

Monarchs normally can overwinter in our Coastal areas, but move inland in Spring to mate and breed. However this year, Monarchs bred here in Goleta in November and had several successful chrysalides and emergent adults. Winter storms that followed hammered the insects that were floating around our yard and the neighbors' yards. It was a difficult time not only because of weather but also lack of nectar producing blooming plants.

Lucky 777 May 13, 2019 12:19 PM
More Needs to be Done to Save the Monarch Butterfly

If the supplier of the plants, the wholesaler that sells to the local retailer, uses neonicotinoids at any point in the production of the plant then it goes systemic and remains in the plant throughout its life. I also encourage people to support Island Seed & Feed or plant organic seeds. Each of us can do a little bit to help the bees and butterflies, and bring beauty into our gardens as well.

Bird May 13, 2019 11:12 AM
More Needs to be Done to Save the Monarch Butterfly

BUG GIRL, please don't write in orange; it is hard to read - and what you wrote is good advice.

However, I question whether the local ACE Hardware, Home Improvement on Gutierrez Street, sprays its plants with neonicotinoid. Some years ago they bought some milkweed that had been so sprayed ---- and, apparently, were horrified and vowed to not do so again. It would be worth checking with them before criticizing.

In addition to Island Seed and Feed, it is doubtful that TerraSol applies poisons to its plants. Definitely worth checking with them about it.

fwiw, I have seen few monarchs in my yard this year, few, compared with last year.

PitMix May 13, 2019 09:32 AM
More Needs to be Done to Save the Monarch Butterfly

I hope this effort is successful. I have very much been enjoying the "Painted Ladies" and monarchs that I have seen this year. Need to plant some milkweed in my yard for them.

biguglystick May 14, 2019 08:50 AM
More Needs to be Done to Save the Monarch Butterfly

The EPA, under this administration, is a joke! They have hired hit men to destroy everything that they are supposed to be protecting! Foxes in all the henhouses. It's a damned shame. If we don't start voting for the environment, regardless of your party lines, be prepared to see horrific climate change effects immediately. It's here. If you don't belive me, read the fascinating and horrifying book "The Uninhabitable Earth" by David Wallace-Wells. He was on NPR just yesterday with a very scary warning. Please pick up this book.

Bug Girl May 13, 2019 01:06 PM
More Needs to be Done to Save the Monarch Butterfly

Pitmix I hope you're right! At this point I get seed starts from only places I know for sure don't spray (and try to support the local businesses, which is also important) mostly because I've actually witnessed employees spraying pesticides on labeled 'organic' starts in the nurseries of some of the big box stores... It was appalling, and I called them out on it.

What really got my goat is that they were spraying plants marketed as being for pollinators. What's the purpose of a 'butterfly plant' if it kills them? Seems so forehead-slappingly-obvious but I don't know if many people working in those corporate stores know any better, and may have just been following some training or instructions.

Ultimately I really don't mind if the monarchs eat all my milkweed, I plant it for them, please don't spray it with poison! Caterpillars need to eat, too!

PitMix May 13, 2019 10:55 AM
More Needs to be Done to Save the Monarch Butterfly

I read that some of the bigger stores are moving towards organic seeds and not spraying their plants with neonics? I hope this is true.
May 04, 2016

Around the world, scientific and advocacy communities are engaged in an active discussion on neonicotinoids (a.k.a. neonics) and their impact on bees and other pollinators.

Although we’ve already committed to phasing out the use of neonics on our plants by the end of 2018, there’s more you may want to know if you’re concerned about these insecticides.

We’re deeply engaged in understanding the possible relationship of the use of neonics on plants and the decline in the honeybee population. To that end, we remain in contact with the EPA, scientists, the insecticide industry and our suppliers to understand the science and monitor the research.

Plant Tag“In total, we’ve now spent three years searching for clarity on the possible harm flowering plants have on pollinators,” said Ron Jarvis, vice president for environmental at The Home Depot. “Although we haven’t found any clear science that confirms what levels in plants are unsafe for pollinators, we will continue to offer natural and organic alternatives for plants and continue to work with our suppliers to phase out plants treated with neonics in our garden centers.”

Our contribution to the total neonics exposure is extremely small. In fact, more than 80 percent of our flowering plants are neonic-free.

What Else We’re Doing
Most retailers and nurseries sell plants treated with neonics, but since 2014 we’ve been one of the few that labels these plants to help you make an informed purchase if you’re concerned about the use of this insecticide.

Bug Girl May 13, 2019 10:47 AM
More Needs to be Done to Save the Monarch Butterfly

Hi Pitmix! Make sure wherever you end up getting milkweed plants from (better yet, start from seed!) doesn't spray the plants with neonicotinoid pesticides, which become systemic in the plant and are then in the nectar and pollen, which will kill pollinators like bees and butterflies. Its a common practice and you should check with the store. ACE and Home depot and K-Mart and Wal-mart all spray all of their plants with it, so try going somewhere where they don't. May I suggest Island Seed and Feed, or planting seeds in your garden yourself?

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