Photo courtesy of Rob Routledge, Sault College; Bugwood.org 

Monarch butterflies-once so commonly spotted in back yards and along roadsides-may soon join the ranks of endangered species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that it’ll conduct a status review under the Endangered Species Act (ESA); the move is the result of a petition jointly submitted by the Center for Biolgocal Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and Dr. Lincoln Brower, a research professor at Sweet Briar College who has studied the Monarch butterfly for more than 50 years. According to the Fish and Wildlife service, the petition “presents substantial information indicating that listing may be warranted.”

Some monarch populations migrate between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, covering more than 3,000 miles. That trek has become increasingly challenging because of threats along their migratory paths and on breeding and wintering grounds. Monarch populations have declined dramatically in recent years, and speculation as to the cause ranges from use of pesticides to habitat loss, including the loss of milkweed, which is the butterfly’s sole source of food.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is requesting scientific and commercial data through a 60-day public information period in preparation for its study. The information the Services seeks includes:

  • the subspecies’ biology, range and population trends, habitat requirements, genetics and taxonomy;
  • historical and current range, including distribution patterns;
  • historical and current population levels and current and projected trends;
  • the life history or behavior of the monarch butterfly that has not yet been documented;
  • thermo-tolerance range and microclimate requirements of the monarch butterfly;
  • past and ongoing conservation measures for the subspecies, its habitat or both; and
  • factors that are the basis for making a listing determination under section 4(a) of the ESA

If you have information to share, please visit http://www.regulations.gov and find docket number FWS-R3-ES-2014-0056.

For more information on the petition process, visit http://www.fws.gov/endangered/what-we-do/listing-petition-process.html.