The monarch butterfly might end up on the endangered species list this year

By Abby Ohlheiser, Washington Post

After conservationists warned that the monarch butterfly’s population is declining in a “deadly free fall,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are reviewing a proposal to include it on the endangered species list, the federal agency announced this week.

Over the past 20 years, the monarch population has fallen by as much as 90 percent, according to the Center for Biological Diversity – one of the groups that petitioned the federal agency for a review. Monarchs are known for their distinctive orange and black markings, but also for their yearly, seemingly grueling, migrations. The butterflies fly thousands of miles from Canada, through the U.S., and down to Mexico, each year.

“This journey has become more perilous for many monarchs,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife said in its announcement, “because of threats along their migratory paths and on their breeding and wintering grounds.” A particular concern? The dwindling supply of the monarch caterpillar’s only foods source: milkweed. In the Midwest, where the species breeds, the caterpillar’s food source is increasingly doused in powerful pesticides used on industrial corn and soybean farms.