Monarch butterfly migration nears with lower numbers

Monarchs recently added to endangered species list
Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 5:02 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Each September, every Monarch in North America travels from Canada all the way to a single 5-acre valley in Mexico. Kansas is a rest stop along the way, but those numbers have been declining for nearly two decades and the iconic butterfly was recently placed on the endangered species list.

“It was only weeks ago that the IUCN, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature declared them to be an endangered species,” said Dennis Dinwiddie, Education and Conservation director at the Topeka Zoo. “The reason for that is that we have lost over 90 percent of our Monarchs on the North American continent in the last 15 to 20 years alone.”

Monarch populations have been declining mainly because of loss of milkweed which is the only plant where Monarchs will lay their eggs.

“If they don’t find milkweed, they won’t lay their eggs so then we’re losing Monarchs for that reason alone,” said Dinwiddie. “That tells us already we need to plant more milkweed plants in lots of places, starting with our backyards and our pots on our decks and our gardens, such as that. We need more milkweed statewide for Monarchs to lay eggs on. They also need native plants, flowering plants to nectar-up.”

Dinwiddie says you’ll now see more planted milkweed than you’ll find in the wild and native plants are also becoming more scarce. He says it’s important to support the struggling species as much as we can.

“It’s important that we save them because like all other species, whether plants or animals, they fit into different food chains,” said Dinwiddie. “They fit into different food webs, they fit into the ecosystems. When we lose them, we lose a lot of other things to so it’s important that we protect each and every species that we have.”

The Topeka Zoo has teamed up with the Kansas Museum of History for the 8th time to host Monarch tagging classes. Monarchs are captured and then tagged with a small sticker before being released. These Monarchs then continue their migration south and the tags are then recorded again once they’ve reached their destination.

Monarchs typically migrate through Kansas in the last two weeks of September, give or take a week.