Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The (Monarch) Butterfly Effect
              When people hear about endangered species they usually think of elephants or pandas.  They never imagine that an insect species would potentially be listed as endangered.  Eastern monarch butterflies are quickly declining in North America and can completely disappear within the next 20 years (courant).  The belief is that this species is declining because of loss of wintering habitat, climate change, increased pesticide use and genetically modified crops (courant).  And since 1990, 970 million monarch butterflies have vanished (washingtonpost).  In fact, monarch butterflies are reaching a quasi-extinction point.  This quasi-extinction is a term used when there are potentially not enough individuals for reproduction (courant).  This species may not seem all that important, but it is an environmental indicator species that informs us about the condition of the environment (courant).  The loss of this species can mean that other species will soon be in decline, including humans (courant).  Many organizations understand the importance of this species and have contributed significant funds to conserve them.  Fish and Wildlife agency is providing $2 million to plant milkweed and raise awareness about the need for this plant (washingtonpost). They are also planting 200,000 acres of milkweed from Texas to Minnesota where 50 percent of monarchs migrate (washingtonpost). Government agencies are not the only group to donate money and effort to saving these butterflies.  A chemical company in Louisiana created a garden waystation for the monarch (washingtontimes).  This garden supplies milkweed for passing butterflies to feed on and lay their eggs on (washingtontimes).  It is also certified as a wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation (washingtontimes).  Nonprofit organizations want to see success in saving the monarch butterfly as well.  A lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for not following the Endangered Species Act (biologicaldiversity).  This lawsuit will force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a final decision regarding the protection status with the monarch butterfly (biologicaldiversity).  Monarch butterflies are not the only insects that need attention and assistance.  Recently, the rusty-patched bumblebee was considered to be put on the endangered species list (takepart).  Its populations have decreased by 95% and will continue to decline unless action is taken immediately (takepart).  Honeybees pollinate a third of the world’s food supply which is why it is so vital to protect these organisms (takepart).  The same things that are affecting monarch butterflies (pesticide use, habitat loss, etc.) are also affecting these honeybees (takepart).
As monarch butterfly and honeybee populations continue to decline, we are losing more of the world’s food supply.  Action needs to be taken now or the impacts will be detrimental with the loss of these species.


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