A colorful insect that has long been a source of wonder is now a source of worry. Monarch butterflies have been admired by generations of humans for their beautiful orange-and-black coloration, the beneficial pollination services they provide and the long migrations they make to Mexico at the end of each summer.

Those migrations are getting underway, which means monarchs will be winging their ways south through Missouri in the weeks ahead.

Monarch butterfly on rosinweed at Helton Prairie Natural Area
July, 1994

However, recent data indicates seeing one of these colorful insects isn’t as common an event as it used to be.

Studies have shown monarch butterfly numbers east of the Rocky Mountains have declined by approximately 90 percent in the last 20 years. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service equated that population drop to a loss of approximately 970 million butterflies during that time span, but the Center for Biological Diversity described the reduction in more sobering terms.

It said, in human population terms, the monarchs’ population drop is equivalent to losing every living person in the U.S. except for residents of Ohio and Florida.

This alarming population drop is the reason monarchs have been in the news in recent years here in Missouri and elsewhere. The Missouri Department of Conservation is one many agencies and organizations throughout the central and eastern U.S. that are involved in efforts to increase habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators.

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