Tomorrow could be a very important day for the future of a beloved Bay Area insect. On Tuesday the US Fish and Wildlife Service is set to decide if the Monarch butterfly will be given protection under the Endangered Species Act.
If you grew up in the Bay Area before the 1980s you likely had first hand experience seeing the Monarch butterfly’s life cycle up close in your elementary school classroom. You probably also feel like there were a lot more of the orange and black winged butterflies in the air. That’s because there were.
Early numbers from the annual Western Monarch Count show that California’s migratory population is at an all time low, with possibly fewer than 10,000 monarchs overwintering in the state this year.
Scientists say the decline in monarchs is caused by a number of factors — from pesticide use, to more severe weather, to habitat loss. In 2014, conservation groups petitioned that the insect be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Now the Fish and Wildlife Service, under the Trump administration, has until Tuesday to announce their decision.
The new status would add teeth to efforts to protect the species.
Biologists say the decline we’re seeing in the monarchs is parallel to a decline we’re seeing in other insect populations.