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Saving the monarch butterflies as populations decline

One Iowa State professor says the monarch population in North America has declined by approximately 20% during the last count completed in the winter of 2021. Over the last 20 years, the population in the eastern U.S. has dropped 80 percent.
Posted at 6:10 PM, Apr 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-08 13:11:01-04

BELLEVUE, Neb. (KMTV) — Iowa State professor Steven Bradbury estimates the monarch butterfly population needs to increase about threefold from what it is now to maintain a sustainable population.

Bradbury said the loss of habitat and climate change are contributing to the species' decline.

"The official Wildlife Service has determined that the monarch could be listed as an endangered species," Bradbury said.

Bradbury said, if the trends continue, the species might not go extinct but the unique migration of the monarch will vanish.

"The monarchs migrate from Mexico all the way up to the Upper Midwest and Southern Canada...and then in the fall, migrate back to Mexico," Bradbury said. "If the numbers get much smaller, that migration will probably disappear. It's one of the few examples in the entire world of insects having that kind of migration."

Ultimately, Bradbury said it's up to humanity to save them.

"We estimate about 500,000 acres of monarch habitat need to be established over the next 20 years," Bradbury said.

Local duo Nancy Crews and Nancy Scott both identify themselves as crusaders who are aiming to save the butterflies.

"Every one of us, in our own gardens, you can plant things for the bees and butterflies from spring till fall so there's nectar and then plant milkweed so the monarchs have something for their caterpillars to eat. It's the host plant, that's what it's called," Nancy Scott said.

Crews and Scott believe saving the butterfly is our responsibility to Mother Nature.

"We have a role to conserve and preserve nature and we need to be aware of it. If we destroy it for our own greed, there's not going to be anything left for us when we get older," Crews said.

There's a 20-year state strategy in Iowa to increase suitable habitats in the state. Neighboring states are also developing strategies similar to the Hawkeye State.