We are missing the migratory monarchs


Piper Pinnetti

Butterflies are delicate creatures that will require change to no longer be classified as endangered.

Nothing lets us know that fall is on its way like the monarch butterflies do when its migration time. Their black, orange and white spotted wings flutter across campus as the summer heat slowly mellows out.

However, the subspecies monarch butterfly, called the migratory butterfly, has been officially classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 

Despite the butterflies becoming classified recently, their struggle has been occurring for years. Monarch populations have significantly decreased over the last twenty years. Their numbers have dropped roughly 80 percent in general. 

Specifically, the western flutters, or groups of butterflies, flying to California for winter have decreased by over 95 percent.

The monarch population is declining because of humans, to make the facts worse. The delicate creatures are suffering due to pesticides, landscaping threats and climate change.

Pesticides and herbicides, often used in the U.S. to kill unwanted vegetation, are killing off milkweed plants that play a big role in the reproduction of these butterflies. 

Before their cocoon hibernation, the monarch caterpillars survive on eating only the milkweed plant. Without this essential part of their life, they will not survive to further stages in their life cycle.

Efforts towards the protection of the annual flutters were successful in Mexico after the World WildLife Fund, a nonprofit organization that protects the wilderness and limits the human impact on nature, worked to help preserve some land to protect for the butterflies. This has helped keep some of the threats to the species decreased in the area. 

As far as the butterflies passing through WSU for their annual migrations, students can provide help as well. 

During the last nights of summer, plenty of Kansans are using wood in their campfires to roast marshmallows. Buying Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) approved wood assists in discouraging illegal logging that contributes to the struggles monarchs are facing.

Avoiding the use of pesticides and other harmful chemicals helps butterflies rest without getting hurt. Planting milkweeds native to Kansas would also be helpful to these populations. Keeping a pot on the porch or balcony with a milkweed plant may help future butterflies with their cycles as well.  

The best time of the year to plant a milkweed is fall which happens to be right around the corner. The plant needs cooler temperatures and moisture. 

Of course, another important strategy to students without a green thumb can be spreading the word and educating others on what is occurring with the friendly visitors.