WTF Fun Fact 12799 – The Migratory Monarch Butterfly Is Endangered

Migratory monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus plexippus) are a subspecies of monarchs, and while you may have seen them in your backyard growing up if you’re over 40, chances are you’ve seen a lot less of them lately. Migratory monarchs are now endangered and could go extinct.

The iconic monarch butterfly

These iconic American butterflies are black and orange. Like other monarchs, their larvae feed on only one plant – milkweed. Climate change and fires have destroyed much of the milkweed in America and conservationists are encouraging people to plant more.

The butterflies are also threatened by pesticides, herbicides, deforestation, and urban development. In fact, they’re so threatened that a Switzerland-based conservation organization that monitors the status of wildlife – the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – has added them to the list of threatened species.

They join around 41,000 other species that could become extinct without intervention.

Migratory monarch populations

Migratory monarchs in the American West face the largest extinction risk, having lost 99.9% of their population over the last 40 years, according to Smithsonian Magazine (cited below).

The number of Western migratory monarchs went from ten million in the 1980s to 1,914 by 2021. That may not be enough butterflies to keep the population alive.

But according to Smithsonian Magazine, there’s still hope:

“To help boost monarch numbers, scientists and conservationists recommend planting more milkweed and nectar flowers, maintaining forests and limiting the use of pesticides and herbicides in the butterflies’ range, report CNN’s Madeline Holcombe and Jalen Beckford.

​​“People recognize the monarch,” Anna Walker, an entomologist at the New Mexico BioPark Society who led the assessment, tells the Washington Post’s Dino Grandoni. “People love the monarch. So that gives us an opportunity to do the outreach and get people on board.”

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Migratory Monarch Butterflies Are Listed as an Endangered Species” — Smithsonian Magazine

WTF Fun Fact 12701 – Like A Fish Out Of Water

We may not all love bees, but we can’t live without them since they pollinate the crops that make the food we eat (among other integral ecological roles). That makes protecting them integral to our future.

In California, that means considering them “fish” for conservation purposes.

The law is a weird thing sometimes. In this case, it required some creative thinking in order to make sure bees got protected status under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).

Others had argued that the Act protects only “birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and plants” – in other words, not insects like bees. They won the original court case, but it was just overturned by a Sacramento Court of Appeal.

According to Reuters:

“While ‘fish’ is ‘commonly understood to refer to aquatic species, the term of art employed by the Legislature … is not so limited,’ Associate Justice Ronald Robie wrote for the appeals court.
CESA itself does not define “fish,” but the law is part of the California Fish and Game Code. The code’s definition includes any ‘mollusk, crustacean, invertebrate (or) amphibian,’ Robie wrote. All those categories ‘encompass terrestrial and aquatic species,’ and the state legislature has already approved the listing of at least one land-based mollusk, the opinion said.
‘Accordingly, a terrestrial invertebrate, like each of the four bumblebee species, may be listed as an endangered or threatened species,’ Robie wrote, joined by Acting Presiding Justice Cole Blease and Associate Justice Andrea Lynn Hoch.'”

The case is Almond Alliance of California et al. v. Fish and Game Commission et al, Xerces Society For Invertebrate Conservation et al, intervenors; California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, No. C093542.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Bees are ‘fish’ under Calif. Endangered Species Act – state court” — Reuters