By Dr. Mercola
You may be aware that bees are dying in large numbers across the globe, courtesy of the ever-increasing presence of toxins in our environment. But did you know that the monarch butterfly is also becoming endangered, and for the same reason?
As reported by the New York Times:1
“Hoping to focus attention on the plight of the monarch butterfly at a North American summit meeting… a group of prominent scientists and writers urged the leaders of Mexico, the United States and Canada to commit to restoring the habitat that supports the insect’s extraordinary migration across the continent.
Calling the situation facing the butterfly ‘grim,’ the group issued a letter that outlined a proposal to plant milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s only food source, along its migratory route in Canada and the United States.”
Immediate Action Needed to Save the Monarch Butterfly
One of the major reasons for the dramatically diminishing numbers of monarch butterflies is that so many of the milkweed plants typically present in fields have been eliminated as farmers have switched over to planting genetically engineered corn and soy. (Land areas used to grow corn in the US have expanded by about 25 percent since 2007.)
The proposal calls for planting milkweed all along the migratory path through the US; between fields, in ditches, along roadsides, and in public areas, to ensure sufficient food for the monarchs, and a place to lay their eggs. The group also recommends subsidizing farmers who do not use herbicides on their land.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is also petitioning the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement tougher rules for the weed killer glyphosate, and to do so sooner rather than later.
The agency is scheduled to complete a review of glyphosate rules next year, but the NRDC is asking the EPA to take immediate action, given the rapid decline of the monarchs. As reported by the Los Angeles Times:2
“The petition asks the EPA to consider preventing the use of glyphosate and other weed killers along highways and utility rights of way where milkweed could grow freely without interfering with maintenance or emergency crews.
It also asks that farmers be required to establish herbicide-free safety zones in or around their fields, and urges the EPA to ensure that any new safeguards on glyphosate don’t lead simply to more use of other weed killers that would be equally bad for monarchs and may pose health risks.”
The Plight of the Monarchs
A recent article in the World Post,3 written by Mexican environmental activist Homero Aridjis, sheds further light on just how dire the situation is. Having spent every childhood winter in Contepec, Michoacan admiring the arriving flocks of monarchs, he has personally noticed the dramatic decline in the gorgeous orange and black butterflies.
In 1986, Aridjis petitioned the Mexican President to protect monarch habitats, which resulted in the creation of the Monarch Butterfly Special Biosphere Reserve. In 2000, the reserve was enlarged, and additional protection was added for other butterfly colonies as well. Mexico has also set limitations on logging in and around the butterfly reserve, to help preserve the butterfly population. Alas, such measures are not enough.
As Aridjis notes, excessive use of toxic agricultural chemicals across America’s Corn Belt plays an absolutely critical role in the declining numbers of these beautiful creatures, as each year the butterflies migrate through this area of the US.
Milkweed,4 a perennial plant that used to be common across American prairies, is the only plant on which the adult monarch will lay its eggs. Once the larvae hatches, the caterpillar will eat the plant. Without milkweed along its migratory path, the monarch cannot reproduce. Aridjis writes:5