In June, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced their intention to place the Monarch butterfly on the endangered species list. Recent changes by EPA state their original date of listing was to be June, but they have since withdrawn this statement and determined the species is to be tagged “endangered” as late as December 2020.
As a migrant species, Monarchs travel to Mexico for wintering purposes. Most recently, this wintering process seems to have changed pace. Per EPA data, the Monarch’s wintering changes can be attributed to pesticide overuse and climate change.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service public affairs specialist Georgia Parham conveyed the Fish and Wildlife Service’s work with butterflies as they relate to pesticides.
“Obviously we’re looking at threats. And again, those are challenges. Adults feed on nectar plants, so nectar resources for adult butterflies are very important to their lifecycle. And, conversely, the caterpillars eat only milkweed. As I said, it’s quite a daunting challenge to put together this assessment.
Parham talked numbers in order to help listeners understand why the EPA decided to change the timing of the listing.
“We have been working on a status assessment for the Monarch since about 2016. And a status assessment is a process that we go through when we are evaluating species for possibly listing. And that kind of gives us a scientific foundation for decisions that we may make later on as far as listing, or recovery, or other activities that are related to the species.”
Chip Shilling, sustainability strategy manager with BASF explained why last years Goldilocks year–a year that was not too hot, nor too cold–created hope for those keeping a keen eye on the Monarch population.
“It allows Monarchs to come out of their overwintering, and come into southern Texas. When they we do move north, and that’s what they typically like, they allow their generations to kind of bloat. So, some folks think that weather really had a large impact for why Monarch populations were so healthy at the end of the year and in the winter in 2018.”