Ohio – While the Monarch Butterfly begins in September its journey from Canada and the United States to Mexico, scientists take notice on the serious impacts made by humans affecting the iconic pollinator species that have seen their population reduced to 56.6 million, from nearly 1 billion in 1997.

“The monarch population that overwinters in Mexico has plummeted more than 90 percent in two decades, it is a perilous decline,” said Rebecca Riley, an attorney with the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), in a June press release.

Credit: National Geographic

Scientists say the drop is linked to the destruction of monarchs’ only habitat and food supply: the milkweed plant. The use of glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Monsanto’s popular weed-killing herbicide Roundup, is killing the milkweed plants monarch caterpillars need to survive

An agreement on the situation was reached between the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Center for Biological Diversity after the latter sued the EPA for violating the Endangered Species Act on 2007. So in June the EPA announced that it will spend the next five years studying the effects of Roundup on more than 1,500 endangered species, including the monarch butterflies.

Environmental groups disagree with the measure and even Mexico is joining groups to point fingers at the US agency. While considering statistics by the Little River Wetlands Project, Betsy Yankowiak, Director of Preserves and Programs at the project, said that about 12 years ago, monarch butterflies covered more than 25 acres in Mexico. The size of monarch butterflies occupation in that country was reduced to just 1.65 acres in 2013, which is worrisome, in Yankowiak’s view.

What can be done?

In Ohio, the Brukner Nature Center along with other organizations across the country have come together and figured out various ways to prevent any further decline among the monarch butterfly population. They have set up the First Annual Monarch Butterfly Celebration to raise awareness among the people about how important the specie is, with a butterfly tent so families can interact with free-roaming butterflies in a controlled environment.

Other conservationist organizations have also chimed in with their own efforts of raising awareness, says Deb Oexmann, the executive director of Brukner. The sharp decline experienced in the past five years by the populations of monarch butterflies, estimated at roughly 90 percent, has led them to organize various events this year.

Source: National Resource Defense Council