One Billion Monarch Butterflies Migrated in 1997; This Winter it was Down to 56.5 Million; Environmentalists Sue EPA

Wednesday, March 04, 2015
Monarch butterfly feeding on a milkweed plant (photo: Steve Smedley, Pantagraph via AP)

The monarch butterfly population has plummeted in less than 20 years, leading one environmental group to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take action.

The Natural Resources Defense Council filed suit in a New York City federal court seeking an order to force the EPA to review an emergency petition that it filed last year. The NRDC claims the EPA never responded to the request.


The group also wants the agency to review within six months its rules governing glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, a commonly used herbicide that has wiped out the milkweed plant in many parts of the country. Monarch butterflies rely on the milkweed for their survival.


The monarch population has dwindled from 1 billion in 1997 to 56.5 million this winter—a drop of 90%, according to the complaint (pdf).


The NRDC says the “distinctive butterfly” is “in peril,” and faces the risk of completely dying off. “The remaining population is so small that a single severe weather event could eradicate it,” the group wrote. “Scientists have warned that the monarch migration is at risk of vanishing.


“In 2002, a single snowstorm on the Mexican wintering grounds killed more monarchs than currently comprise the entire population,” the complaint states. “The continued loss of butterflies will make this already imperiled population increasingly vulnerable.”


Use of Roundup has increased as Monsanto has developed and promoted “Roundup-Ready” crops that are resistant to the herbicide. However, farmers using the chemical are killing neighboring milkweed plants on which monarchs thrive.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Environmentalists Link Plunge of Monarch Butterfly to Herbicide (by Lorraine Bailey, Courthouse News Service)

Natural Resources Defense Council v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. District Court, Southern New York) (pdf)

Public-Private Partnership Tries to Save Monarch Butterflies as Population Collapses by 970 Million in 25 Years (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)


Someone with a clue 1 year ago
What an idiotic comment. Someone seeing a few hundred butterflies does not disprove that 94% of them have died off. By the way, the butterflies are just the most visible result of ubiquitous use of poisons like Roundup. A lot more is dying than just butterflies.
Paul Cherubini 1 year ago
Monarch butterflies are not disappearing. Just like honeybees are not. The truth is monarch butterflies can be filmed by the hundreds in exactly the types of habitats where articles like this one say the butterflies have vanished. Places like southwestern Minnesota that are in the heart of Monsanto GMO farmland: GMO crop farmers in the Midwest are themselves posting photos of large gathering of monarchs on their farm property like this one did on Sept. 4, 2014:

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