Recent Eastern Monarch Numbers Show Grim Outlook for Imperiled Species

WASHINGTON, D.C. — This year’s continued decline of the eastern monarch butterfly population demonstrates a dire and imminent need for investment in conservation initiatives including on-the-ground collaboration and long-sought legislation. The latest results reported by World Wildlife Fund-Mexico of the annual survey of eastern monarchs overwintering in central Mexico found the butterflies occupied an estimated 2.1 hectares of forest during the winter of 2022–23. This reflects a decline of approximately 22 percent compared to the previous winter, when monarchs occupied 2.8 hectares. 

“The monarch butterfly is a sentinel species, whose health and condition mirrors many other wildlife populations, especially pollinators. Although monarch populations fluctuate year to year, often in response to weather conditions, the butterfly’s long-term trend has been on a downward trajectory,” said Dr. Rebeca Quiñonez-Piñón, chief monarch recovery strategist for the National Wildlife Federation. “The current five-year population average from 2018 to 2022 is less than 50 percent of the six-hectare recovery goal laid out in the Mid-America Monarch Conservation Strategy. These continuing low population numbers are a warning sign that cannot be overstated.” 

Habitat loss and fragmentation continue to be at the top of the list as the major threat to monarchs. Climatic change is exacerbating habitat loss and fragmentation, affecting the monarch’s breeding grounds, migratory stopover habitats, and overwintering areas. To safeguard monarchs, we must work to stabilize our rapidly changing climate even as we restore habitat by planting native nectar and caterpillar host plants.

Recovering the eastern monarch needs continued public and private investment, legislation and on-the-ground work if we’re going to achieve a healthy and sustainable population. Legislation like the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act and the MONARCH Act aim to support imperiled species, such as the monarch and many other pollinators, before more expensive measures are required. 

You can help the eastern monarch butterfly by:

  • Gardening for wildlife by planting native milkweed and native nectar plants that will support monarch caterpillars and monarch adults, respectively.
  • Reducing the use of pesticides.
  • Encouraging local leaders to join the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge.
  • Engaging in community conservation actions such as habitat restoration, education and outreach and local policy changes to benefit monarch butterflies.
  • Getting involved in monarch conservation and community-based science opportunities where you live.
  • Calling on legislators to support needed policies and legislation, such as the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act and the Monarch Act. 



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