No, children, the Monarch Butterfly is Not Endangered

Guest Essay by Kip Hansen – 23 July 2022

This is what the Mainstream Media is saying:

Despite that (and other similar claims you may have heard or read or seen in the mainstream media, similar to the above)  the iconic Monarch Butterfly is not endangered.  It is not even Vulnerable, or even Near Threatened.  In fact, it’s official designation under the IUCN Red List System is LEAST CONCERN.

The designation of Least Concern was assigned in the most current assessment performed August 2021. The Justification for this classification is given as:


The Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is widely recognized for its remarkable long-distance migration. Native to the Americas, from southern Canada to northern South America, breeding populations of this species are now found around the world. These more recently established populations are excluded from the Red List assessment as they are dependant on host plant species which are non-native to these areas (see Geographic Range text).

Only the North American sub-species, D. p. plexippus, is considered migratory and there are two primary migration patterns. East of the Rocky Mountains, over several generations, butterflies migrate back and forth from overwintering sites in the Oyamel Fir forests of Central Mexico to summer breeding areas across the eastern United States and southern Canada. Similarly, in western North America, butterflies migrate from overwintering sites along the Pacific Coast to breeding areas in all U.S. states west of the Rocky Mountains. The sub-species D. p. megalippe, found in the Neotropics from Florida, through southern Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America, to northern South America, breeds year-round and does not embark on long distance migrations. As larvae monarch butterflies feed almost exclusively on Milkweed (Asclepias spp.).

Long term population declines, primarily due to habitat loss in overwintering sites and host plant declines in summer breeding areas, have been observed in the migratory sub-species, D. p. plexippus. In the last 10 years, the population size appears to have stabilized, though these subpopulations remain at high risk of quasi-extinction due to stochastic events. However, where this species is non-migratory, the population size and trend are not known with certainty, though the population is thought to be stable. Due to the widespread nature of this species, overall large population size, and declines likely to be less than 30%, the risk of extinction remains low. Therefore, this species is assessed as Least Concern. However, because the migratory phenomenon is certainly at risk, conservation efforts should continue, and additional research on the non-migratory subspecies should be carried out to ensure population stability. “

The press has cooperated with the IUCN and other activists to create the impression that the beloved Monarch Butterfly is in danger of going extinct – which is false. 

So, what is all the buzz in the press about?   The IUCN has issued a finding that the migratory Monarchs in North America —  the two migratory populations of otherwise genetically indistinguishable Monarch Butterflies, which are also genetically indistinguishable from the Monarch Butterflies in North America that do not migrate to Mexico or the California Coast – are endangered.  In spite of the fact that there has been no genetic differences found, the portion of the Eastern and Western North American populations of Monarchs which do have migratory patterns and more or less geographically stable over-wintering sites are considered a sub-species by behavior. 

The IUCN had previous declared that the magnificent phenomena of the great North American Monarch migrations to be an endangered or threatened biological phenomenon.  (and here and here).  And despite some good and encouraging news in recent years —  here, here and here – the IUCN has taken what appears to be a popular, but activist-motivated, action of declaring the sub-species, D. p. plexippus, to be Endangered — not because the butterflies themselves are endangered but because they may stop migrating — the migrations are in danger of ceasing.

The Encouraging News:

“On May 24, 2022, the World Wildlife Fund-Telmex Telcel Foundation Alliance (WWF) and the National Commission of Protected Natural Areas in Mexico (CONANP), released data from the winter 2021–22 monarch butterfly population counts. Monarchs occupied 2.84 hectares in December 2021, compared to 2.10 hectares at the same time in 2020. This represents a 35% increase.”

[ Note: “Researchers have estimated that there are approximately 21.1 million butterflies per hectare”…2.84 x 21.1 = 58.8 million Eastern Migratory Monarchs. ]

“Monarch butterflies west of the Rocky Mountains overwinter on the central coast of California. The 2022 monarch butterfly news season began with news that the western segment of the monarch population, which migrates along the California coast and numbered about 2,000 butterflies in 2020, jumped to almost 250,000 butterflies in 2021. [ Note: Those numbers are not an error – the population over-wintering was 125 times larger. ] In a post on the Xerces website titled “The Bounciness of Butterflies,” the invertebrate conservation organization based in Portland, Oregon, acknowledged that insect populations are famously volatile, with extreme fluctuations from year to year, depending on conditions.” [ source ]

Various advocacies have been campaigning to have the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declare Monarch Butterfly as an Endangered species – on a host of grounds – one which is often mentioned is it that such a finding could be used to block the building of The Wall (or require its removal) along the border between Texas and Mexico.  

The decision by the IUCN does not affect the official stance of US FWS but will certainly be used as ammunition to continue the push to get the sub-species added to the Endangered Species list so that it falls under all the aspects and protections of the Endangered Species Act, a decision FWS has promised to make in 2024. 

The problem with all this is that the Monarch Butterfly is not endangered  — there are millions and millions of them, both in the United States and spread quite widely across the world.  They are officially, even by the overly cautious IUCN, considered to be of Least Concern of being endangered or going extinct. 

However, there is a sub-species-by-behavior, the two separate sub-populations of Migratory Monarchs of North America – Western and Eastern – whose populations have fallen precipitously for reasons suspected but not fully understood.  And, yes, it would be a shame to lose such a marvelous and mysterious phenomenon.

This author does not believe that declaring this artificially created sub-species Endangered, a sub-species whose habitat stretches across much of the North American continent,  will do anything to help the Monarch Butterfly but will only result in extraordinary federal governmental interference in the affairs of citizens and businesses, especially affecting agricultural practices of our major breadbasket states.

Bottom Line:

1.  The non-governmental organization, the IUCN, has declared the Migratory Monarch Butterfly to be Endangered.  This does not mean that the Monarch Butterfly, in all its many forms and glories, is endangered in any way: as a species, they are of Least Concern in regards to extinction.

2.  There are many things that can and should be done to help the North American Migratory Monarch recover and all these can and should be done at a State and Local level.  These include:

          a.  Home planting of Native Milkweeds.

          b.  Community planting of Native Milkweeds in parks and public gardens.

c.  Home and community planting of pollinator and nectar flower gardens.

d.  Encouraging or passing legislation to prevent Federal, State, and county road crews from mowing down stands of milkweed along America’s highways and public roads.

3.  Participate as an individual in butterfly citizen-science conservation projects in your home town.

# # # # #

Author’s Comment:

Regular readers will know that I write about Monarch Butterflies once or twice a year.  Monarch’s are beautiful, plentiful, and full of as-yet-unsolved and still-not-understood mysteries.  Follow this link to read my earlier pieces.

The ICUN assessment process is, to put it in technical terms, “loosey-goosey” and often motivated by advocacy.    The very idea of species and sub-species is equally “loosey-goosey”.  Thus we even  have a non-existent mammal, the Red Wolf, listed officially by US FWS as an Endangered Species.

I support in every way local citizen-based projects to help Monarchs and other butterfly species – if interested, do your part.

Thank you.

# # # # #

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Tom Halla
July 23, 2022 10:13 am

Red wolves are a good example of abuse of definitions of species for the purpose of invoking the Endangered Species Act. As they are a gray wolf/coyote hybrid, defining them as an endangered species depends on their being an actual species.
Of course, activists will call them a species.

Reply to  Tom Halla
July 25, 2022 3:21 am

Hi Tom – just being argumentative, but I’ll disagree with you a bit. Species are a human construct – not a natural one – so we see species where we think they are useful. I, personally, would be interested in preserving a hybrid population of Red Wolves (except NIMBY) if it was viable. What is wrong with hybrid speciation? Much of nature has been so derived – and most of the grains that we depend on for food are the result of rather elaborate hybridisation events.

Nature is, and has always been, far more complex than our definitions allow. No modern biologist adheres to the Biological Species Concept, or if they do they are very out of it. Hybridisation happens when it can and if the hybrids survive and reproduce, then why would we pretend they aren’t real species? We are part Neanderthal, or at least I am.

The question I would ask about Red Wolves is how long were they present and acting as a distinct population. If they are very recent, then I can see a good argument against treating them as a species. If they have been around for a long time, though, then why not treat them as a species?

Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 25, 2022 3:48 pm

Hi Kip – Well, Tom was calling them a non-species and USFW and IUCN claim the Red Wolf is a species. My understanding is that only species can be protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

The point I’m trying to make is that ‘species’ is not a unit of nature, but an arbitrary human definition – as with similar terms like ‘Evolutionary Significant Unit’ which has been used to claim that certain populations of whales should be protected (and possibly relevant to the whale example someone raised).

This is also relevant to your comments about Monarch populations. People need to understand that these arguments are about human pigeonholes for nature and not something that would exist without us to argue about it.

The Red Wolf is a particularly interesting example. It is claimed that there are 10,000 year old fossils and that the Red Wolf was widespread in the southeast US until hunted out in the early 1900s. Sounds like a species to me. Even if it had a hybrid origin, those populations appear to have occupied a large area and done well until hunted out. I think the original captive breeding program had merit, but that failed.

The Coyote now occupies the area where the Red Wolf once flourished. It is better adapted to modern humans and I think the Red Wolf is gone for good. Whatever habitat it was good at exploiting is largely gone and it has a major competitor in the coyote.

I certainly don’t support the knee-jerk attempts to create a new hybrid species – not only stupid, but hubris. If conditions change in the future and there are still Grey Wolves around, then maybe something like the Red Wolf will reappear, but that should be left up to Nature.

Last edited 2 months ago by DaveW
Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 26, 2022 5:07 pm

Hi Kip – I probably did read your Grey Wolf essay, I’ve been reading WUWT for a long time. A good essay – and it is clear that you understood some of the basic problems. One wonders what Carl Zimmer’s agenda was, he’s always been a hack as far as I can tell and the conclusion he presented is clearly misleading: genomics has done nothing to solve ‘the species problem’, not for North American wolves and not even for our species.

When I was being trained as a biologist, species were considered real – and the basic units of taxonomy, evolution and ecosystems. The Biological Species Concept was also taught as gospel, although it was falling to phylogenetic species concepts by the time my training was finished. Unfortunately, the BSC is still accepted as gospel by much of Western society – you can tell this from many of the comments following your Grey Wolf essay – and most people do think that species exist as units of nature.

So, the point I’ve been trying to make (obviously not well) is that arguing about species status will never lead to an understanding of a problem. Species do not exist in any real sense except by human definition. Therefore, people are able to appropriate ‘species’ for their arguments – as Zimmer did for his NYT article.

We have these same interminable arguments here in Australia vs Dingoes and Wild Dogs. Some noble lying types try to make every population of Rock Wallaby a species. It drives me nuts. The real question is what can and should be protected and preserved.

Full disclosure – I have described dozens of new species (sometimes you need a name – for example for quarantine intercepts or ecological research), taught species concepts at the tertiary level, and am more or less convinced that populations do have a real and meaningful evolutionary existence.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 27, 2022 1:48 am

Thanks for reminding me of reification in your more recent essay. I haven’t read the Statistician to the Stars for a long time, but I probably should see if he is still publishing.

Anyway, species concepts are certainly treating an abstraction as if they were physical things – and that is the problem.

I think that the phylogenetic species concept – essentially using the hypothesis that a diagnosis of characters separates certain populations from all other populations – works the best. I think that is the way that most modern taxonomists have come around to defining species. It is falsifiable and gives you names and populations to work with.

The problem is that the rest of society – all the lawyers, politicians, wildlife ‘conservation’ organisations, Attenboroughs, etc. – are still stuck in the reification stage.

Right-Handed Shark
July 23, 2022 10:23 am

Here in the UK a week or two ago there was an item on one of the news programmes about decreasing butterfly numbers and of course blaming it all on “climate change”® and asking people to sign up for “The Big Butterfly Count” ( I emailed them and asked if they wanted volunteers to include all those to be found splattered on wind turbine blades. Not heard back from them yet.,the%20risk%20zone%20of%20turbines.

Last edited 2 months ago by Right-Handed Shark
Right-Handed Shark
Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 23, 2022 10:47 am

Kip, I wholeheartedly agree that it is a worthy project, but I am so sick of these organisations leaping on the climate bandwagon and ignoring other reasons, especially when those reasons don’t suit the agenda.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 23, 2022 11:41 am

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
– H. L. Mencken

Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 23, 2022 2:04 pm

Forget about reading, writing and arithmetic.
Teach them Critical Racist Theory and Butterfly Counting !

Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 23, 2022 4:25 pm

Kip, here is another good link on this issue.

The insect apocalypse Is here

Yes. These birds and bees we need are disappearing while #ExtinctionRebellion is focused on a non-issue. “Researchers found that wind turbines in Germany resulted in a loss of about 1.2 trillion insects of different species each year…”

Also, this from Schellenberger.

Why Wind Turbines Threaten Endangered Species With Extinction

“…Insects cluster at the same altitudes used by wind turbines. In Oklahoma, a major wind energy state, scientists found that the highest density of insects is between 150 to 250 meters. Large new turbine blades stretch from 60 to 220 meters above the ground.”

Reply to  Right-Handed Shark
July 25, 2022 3:41 am

Thanks RHS – I didn’t know about the wind turbines mashing insects. Especially worrisome is the association with hill-topping behaviours – these are critical for many non-pest insect populations that are already threatened by habitat destruction.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 25, 2022 4:19 pm

Kip – Obviously you haven’t fallen for the ‘Windscreen/Windshield Effect’ delusion. Greenies who rage on about the Insect Armageddon claim no insects are being squished on windshields because there aren’t any.

There are certainly fewer insects being squashed on my current windshield compared to what I can remember from my youth. Part of that is the tendency to remember extremes – drive through Kansas during a grasshopper outbreak and you will remember it. Part of it may be fewer pest outbreaks in crops due to modern agriculture. Most of it, though, appears to be thanks to modern aerodynamic design of automobiles – most of the insects that once would have squished on my windscreen, now go shooting off in the slipstream.

Here in Queensland, large migrations of butterflies are not uncommon and sometimes I can’t avoid driving through them. It is hard on the butterflies – and you can actually see them getting bounced and thrashed off to the sides of the car (I walk these country roads too and they are littered with dead butterflies, dragonflies, etc.). Not many actually make a squish on the windscreen though – and the Climate Alarmists make this into a sign of insect extinction.

Automobiles only harvest from the lower levels of the atmosphere and aren’t likely to have much of an effect on hill-topping species (many insects use hill tops as mating aggregation sites). Wind turbines harvest a major sweep of the lower atmosphere. You could be right that cars and trucks cause more havoc – but the windmills are sampling different insect distributions and so are adding to any negative effects.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 26, 2022 5:24 pm

All insects aren’t equal. There are many non-pest insect populations that are under threat, but mostly from land use changes, habitat destruction or introduced diseases. Except for a few butterflies, though, no one really cares – and half the butterfly cases are fake crises too.

July 23, 2022 10:28 am

Hyperbole rules the day with so called journalism these days. The intent is to keep the populace worried and in fear so they can be rescued, not informed.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 23, 2022 11:41 am

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
– H. L. Mencken

Reply to  KcTaz
July 23, 2022 2:38 pm

Yeah, ol’ Mencken warned of a lot of stuff – a century ago
sort of a plain spoke Nostodamus – we even have the “downright moron” adorning the White House”

Reply to  czechlist
July 23, 2022 4:33 pm

I love his Downright Moron quote.

Here it is for those not familiar with it. Mencken was prescient.

“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” – H.L. Mencken

Here is great quote on Journalism by Thompson, not Menckhen.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity.
“Hunter S. Thompson

Reply to  markl
July 23, 2022 12:38 pm

Additionally, what we see here is one of the main hallmarks of far-lefitists: their intellectual dishonesty, not only with the public but also with themselves. They hurl these kinds of assertions not because science facts support the assertions, but instead because they feel like their assertions could be true.

Reply to  markl
July 24, 2022 3:31 am

Fear porn

July 23, 2022 10:32 am

It is never ending.

John Hultquist
July 23, 2022 11:02 am

I recall reading — early this year, I think — that the recent migrations into the USA were abundant to the point of startling the “experts.” In a couple of prior years there were weather related problems that reduced the numbers.
Here is a post from last November:
Happy surprise gives experts hope for survival of Monarch butterflies – The Hill

Similar reports were published over the next couple of months.

Butterfly info and great photos here:
Northwest Butterflies

Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 23, 2022 12:15 pm

Maybe the Monarch Butterfly King issued Lockdown orders for his subjects due to Covid?

Andy Pattullo
July 23, 2022 11:13 am

Odd that the photogenic Monarch has so many fans trying to predict its doom, whereas no one seems at all interested in finding mosquito species at risk of imaginary extinction. Isn’t this just another form of systemic racism?

Andy Pattullo
Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 23, 2022 6:59 pm

You are right, but as a scientist and physician I very familiar with the tendency of “experts” to pretend to understand what they don’t. Saying “I don’t know” is not good for business no matter how appropriate the statement may be for those interested in the truth.

H. D. Hoese
July 23, 2022 11:14 am

Everything is endangered according to National Geographic. June issue has the Philippine coral reefs, “…satellite monitoring is critical.” They did have hurricane damage, but they always show incredible pictures, one there with gobies in a glass jar.

From their Monarch Link— “A recent, controversial study based on citizen-science data from summer nesting sites suggests that monarch butterflies may be increasing in some U.S. locations.” They use the passenger pigeon as an example of potential extinctions.

H. D. Hoese
Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 23, 2022 12:12 pm

Lightning got a Texas turbine, that would fry a few, but not nearly as many when they burn the marsh in Louisiana, however, it doesn’t take long for mosquitoes to return. Insect biologists have always been uncommon there.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 23, 2022 2:03 pm

And amazingly turbine and blade fires don’t appear to have requirements to be reported to the EPA.

Since the fires are a hazardous materials spreading situation, I don’t understand that.

Oh, yes, it is “unreliables” so no reporting required, much like raptor kills, migratory bird kills, etc.

John Hultquist
Reply to  H. D. Hoese
July 23, 2022 3:54 pm

 “…satellite monitoring is critical.”

Those interested should read Jennifer’s series of posts.
Note the “series” — with an s.
She actually gets up close and personal with the corals.
Under the water you can see them.

Jennifer Marohasy – Scientist, Author and Speaker

Andrew Wilkins
July 23, 2022 11:15 am

Totally off topic, but I need to put it out there: the county council for Leicestershire in the UK has decided to hitch their bandwagon to Net Zero and have put together a survey for people to answer. Please feel free to hop over and give ’em some feedback:

Reply to  Andrew Wilkins
July 23, 2022 12:29 pm

Took the survey as an interested individual.

Really sad. I suspect that my input will be ignored.

Andrew Wilkins
Reply to  Oldseadog
July 23, 2022 4:48 pm

I’ve taken it 10 times 😉

July 23, 2022 11:29 am

The loss or changing of local habitats are being described as extinction events even when species are not threatened as a group.

The mitigations in Colorado for the Canadian Lynx which isn’t native to the area is an example of irrational fear mongering overriding reason. The idea that a successful migrating species can’t adapt to a few acres being used for downhill skiing in the winter has caused permanent closures of quality terrain. You can be arrested for accessing public land set aside for this resourceful species.

Rud Istvan
July 23, 2022 11:40 am

Kip, thanks for this post. I read about the monarch IUCN RED kerfuffle, but did not research it to realize it was totally made up ‘climate alarm’.

July 23, 2022 12:10 pm

Can someone please explain to this concern to me?
“…one which is often mentioned is it that such a finding could be used to block the building of The Wall (or require its removal) along the border between Texas and Mexico. ”

This “issue” has been around for awhile. My daughter, (a recovering Left/Lib, thank you, God) mentioned this to me awhile back. Ever since, I’ve wondered why anyone would think a butterfly can’t fly over a wall?
We have a seasonal creek behind our house. It’s a good 25 feet or more from the top of our fence to the ground level where the creek is. I have watched many times as butterflies fly from the creek area, then, up over our fence and then, up and over our house. No butterfly has ever had an issue with flying from the creek to over the roof of our house. They could just go around our house but seem to prefer flying over it.
I’d very much appreciate it if someone could explain where the idea that butterflies who migrate over thousands of miles, can’t fly over a wall. Thanks!

Last edited 2 months ago by KcTaz
Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 23, 2022 12:32 pm

How on earth can a wall, even if it is 50′ high, be an impediment to a flying insect.

John Garrett
July 23, 2022 12:26 pm

Thank you !

Naturally, NPR and the Associated Press splattered the headline all over the place yesterday and I didn’t get around to digging out the detail.

You’ve saved me a lot of time and splutter. When asked, I’ll now have the facts at hand.

Last edited 2 months ago by John Garrett
Danley Wolfe
July 23, 2022 12:36 pm

IUCN a.k.a. ministry of truth and justice for butterflies who are created and sanctioned by whom ? … to police Newspeak, Doublethink and Thoughtcrime.

Rodger L Nelson
July 23, 2022 12:40 pm

The ESA has been applied to taxa below species level for a long time and, in fact, was indicated in the text of the legislation: Section 3 (Definitions) Item 16 reads: ‘The term “species” includes any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which interbreeds when mature.’ The act has been amended several times, but I believe this language was in the original signed by Richard Nixon.This gets very confusing, but USFWS can designate distinct population segments and/or critical habitat.One would hope their is genetic support for considering the groups of concern distinct and not relying on behavior alone, but FWS can be fairly arbitrary at times. It would be even more interesting to see California’s eucalyptus groves designated as critical habitat: The opportunity for cognitive dissonance would be delicious.

Rodger L Nelson
Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 24, 2022 11:28 am

Genetic investigation was much less informative in the 1970s than it is now, but, in my experience, has not always supported some of the divisions that the regulatory agencies (USFWS & NOAA in my work) created. In my opinion, the ESA is the US has mainly generated paperwork and bureaucratic entanglements without doing much explicit protection of anything. I have done a fair amount of that paperwork.

Reply to  Rodger L Nelson
July 26, 2022 2:02 pm

The US Endangered Species Act is used to protect subspecies, but the IUCN does not give consideration to subspecies, only species.

July 23, 2022 1:51 pm

The phenomenon of declaring a population, community, or ecotype a ‘species threatened with extinction’ is widespread, politically motivated and wrong. And ridiculous. In Ontario, the ‘forest-dwelling, non-migratory woodland caribou’ has been declared Threatened with ectinction federally and provincially. This ‘population’ is genetically indistinguishable from other woodland caribou; in Ontario, there are supposedly 5000 of the Threatened ecotype, at least 20,000 of non-threatened, many more thousands in nearby Manitoba and Quebec. Studies have shown individual caribou of the different ecotype frequently exchange. It’s all all sham and a scam

Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 23, 2022 6:40 pm

In ecoterroism world, there is no understanding of ecology. Or Bio 101. Most of these dimwits have a BA. Those with science degrees simply cave to the whims of whomever doles out the research grants. It’s a sham and a scam run by scum.

July 23, 2022 2:02 pm

This excellent article should also be posted at Home – ClimateRealism
It is similar to the excellent articles there by H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D.

July 23, 2022 2:18 pm

Press release | 21 Jul, 2022
Migratory monarch butterfly now Endangered – IUCN Red List

Gland, Switzerland, 21 July 2022 (IUCN) – The migratory monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus plexippus), known for its spectacular annual journey of up to 4,000 kilometres across the Americas, has entered the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM as Endangered, threatened by habitat destruction and climate change.

The Endangered migratory monarch butterfly is a subspecies of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). The native population, known for its migrations from Mexico and California in the winter to summer breeding grounds throughout the United States and Canada, has shrunk by between 22% and 72% over the past decade.

Legal and illegal logging and deforestation to make space for agriculture and urban development has already destroyed substantial areas of the butterflies’ winter shelter in Mexico and California, while pesticides and herbicides used in intensive agriculture across the range kill butterflies and milkweed, the host plant that the larvae of the monarch butterfly feed on.

Climate change has significantly impacted the migratory monarch butterfly and is a fast-growing threat; drought limits the growth of milkweed and increases the frequency of catastrophic wildfires, temperature extremes trigger earlier migrations before milkweed is available, while severe weather has killed millions of butterflies.

The western population is at greatest risk of extinction, having declined by an estimated 99.9%, from as many as 10 million to 1,914 butterflies between the 1980s and 2021. The larger eastern population also shrunk by 84% from 1996 to 2014. Concern remains as to whether enough butterflies survive to maintain the populations and prevent extinction.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 24, 2022 1:41 pm

No it isn’t. Rather, this ‘essay’ serves to trivialize the problem, and to ridicule those who view it as a major problem.

Andre Den Tandt
July 23, 2022 2:29 pm

Some 20-or-so years ago, while on a visit to New Zealand to visit my brother who, like me, grew up on a milkweed-rich farm in Ontario, he showed me the monarch butterflies that visited a particular flowering shrub in his Auckland backyard. I was there long enough to see the caterpillars, and they were definitely not Viceroy butterflies. The host plant looked very different from our North-American milkweed, but the sap was also a white latex. So, if all else fails, there is a fall-back population.

Mark D
July 23, 2022 4:33 pm

We maintain a butterfly garden simply because we like watching butterflys.

Currently we have 6-8 Monarch chrysalis hanging and each year they return in numbers.

Amazing what a bug can do 😉

July 23, 2022 5:01 pm

Here’s the complete list of 1482 species listed as threatened by the US Fish and Wildlife Service: Listed Animals (

I’m sure it’s a conspiracy and there’s nothing to worry about.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 23, 2022 7:21 pm

Perhaps we will follow eventually given the current extinction rate is 1000-10,000 higher then baseline. But again, probably a conspiracy.

Reply to  Steve45
July 24, 2022 9:36 am

Flat lie. It cannot possibly be 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the baseline as there are less than 1,000 known species that once lived during the entire period of written human history but went extinct.

Don’t confuse predictions made by fanciful models with reality.

July 24, 2022 3:30 am

I expect milkweed to be declared an ‘invasive’ soon here, 54246. Each patch, some an acre in size, has a half dozen monarchs over it.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 24, 2022 9:12 pm

Plenty of monarchs in South Western Australia their plant of choice is the noxious weed “narrow leaf cotton bush”. Yep their numbers will probably decline as it is tackled.

The monarch itself is also an invasive species so we can ship them back if you run out 🙂

Last edited 2 months ago by LdB
July 24, 2022 4:29 am

Former scientist Hansen is now writing articles on strings and butterflies.
What’s next? A list of his favorite New Age songs?

Paul Hurley (aka PaulH)
July 24, 2022 5:42 am

In a similar vein, a meme is circulating criticizing lawn chemicals for killing fireflies.  I don’t know if this is true, but I am doubtful. It seems to me that “lawn chemicals” is a broad term for herbicides. Herbicides are used to control weeds, not insects. 

Reply to  Paul Hurley (aka PaulH)
July 25, 2022 3:58 am

If I recall correctly, North American ‘fireflies’ feed mostly on snails and slugs as larvae. So, if populations are declining, the first thing I would check is any pesticide that is killing terrestrial molluscs. Chemicals don’t always only kill just the target pests – so find out why these lawn chemicals are supposed to be killing fireflies. Otherwise, it is probably habitat destruction that is the culprit – that is usually the case. Eliminate areas where snails and slugs do well and your fireflies will disappear.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 26, 2022 5:54 pm

My favourite predatory fireflies are the ones that mimic the flashing of the female of other species and then eat the males that respond.

mr keebassa
July 24, 2022 6:18 am

Thank you for this. Just found your site. I initially fell for the endangered thing and even passed the info on. I should have known better. I am a big fan of monarchs and all butterflies. I have an entire meadow devoted to milkweed as well as some very large pollinator patches.

Mike Vercher
July 24, 2022 7:22 am

It is not only climate science which have taken these kind of actions to get their way. The environmentalists working against the marine energy business has carved out the Gulf of Mexico population of Bryde’s Whales as a sub-species of a large population of Bryde’s Whale so that the industry must take expensive and unnecessary actions to ensure this population isn’t bothered at all.

July 24, 2022 7:52 am

Regarding the recommendation to hold off on mowing the road edges, be careful with that one. In the Midwest, mowing has been held off until around early June for several years now. The result is that wild parsnip is now the dominant species along miles and miles of roadsides.

The problem is that wild parsnip, which grows to heights of 4 feet or so in dense stands, flowers early and goes to seed before the mowing season now starts. The mowers then spread the seeds further along the roadway each season. It’s a biennial plant, so the stand regenerates from the roots of the past year’s seedlings every year. Another problem is that if the sap from the plant gets on a person’s skin, subsequent exposure of the skin to direct sunlight generates skin boils that are quite irritating, take several days to heal, and then leave red blotches on the skin for months. Gardening Tip: Don’t weed whack wild parsnip while wearing shorts.

A plant that once was just occasional on roadsides now dominates miles and miles of it in the Midwest, most likely hindering the establishment of milkweed plants in the process.

Rich Lambert
Reply to  Rod
July 24, 2022 11:31 am

Johnson Grass where I used to live.

Reply to  Rod
July 25, 2022 4:05 am

I hesitate to suggest this, but perhaps one mowing strategy isn’t good for all places. I would suggest that municipalities treat their road verges as gardens and encourage a variety of wild plants that provide food and shelter for bees, parasitoids, etc. and not just Monarchs. That way everyone benefits – even the farmers (pollination, biocontrol). If no one in the local government has a clue as to what should be growing on the verges, I’m sure there are locals who can fill them in.

July 26, 2022 2:30 pm

The North American migratory subspecies of the monarch account for all monarchs with stable native populations. Non-migratory monarchs have stable populations only where monarchs are not native, or at least where non-migratory monarchs are something new and dependent on weather not doing something bad, or where they are dependent on human efforts to have milkweed growing year round where it used to not reliably exist year round.

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