Monarch Butterfly Numbers Show Migration Still at Grave Risk, Despite Uptick

WASHINGTON (January 27, 2015)—The low number of migrating monarch butterflies returning to their Mexican refuge shows that the migration remains under grave threat, even though the figures announced today are higher than last year’s, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.   The 56.5 million butterflies announced today are a tiny fraction of the one billion recorded in the mid-1990s, and represent the second lowest figure ever recorded for the population.

Sylvia Fallon, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, made the following statement:

“Today’s figures confirm the long-term plunge in migrating monarch populations. While we are pleased the numbers are up slightly, they are still very low by historical standards. They show the monarch migration remains seriously threatened by the powerful agricultural weed killers, used on genetically modified crops that have wiped out native milkweed, which is monarchs’ main food.

“Experts attribute the uptick  largely to the result of favorable weather and other local variables, but the trend remains clear: If we can’t make room for more milkweed---both by  restrictions on the use of Roundup and other glyphosate herbicides on GM corn and soybeans and by creating new milkweed habitat-- we are in danger of losing the monarch migration forever.”

After last year’s alarming figures were announced, NRDC filed a petition ( with the Environmental Protection Agency seeking urgent steps to restrict the use of glyphosate (initially marketed as Roundup). Its use has increased 10-fold since the mid-1990s introduction of glyphosate-resistant corn and soybeans by biochemical giant Monsanto, destroying much of the native milkweed habitat. The EPA has not yet responded to the petition.

In October, NRDC filed suit in federal court to block use of another newly approved weed killer, Enlist Duo, intended for use on a new strain of GM crops, arguing it would further harm monarchs. The court case is pending.


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