Monarch Conservation


What do you think is the greatest threat to monarchs?

Because the monarchs are concentrated in a very small area in the winter, they are more vulnerable during this stage of their life. However, breeding sites in Canada and the US are also crucial to their survival, and additional losses of these sites also pose threats. I don’t think that we should focus so much on what the greatest threat is, but more on what we can do as individuals to permit monarchs and other species to live alongside humans.

Why are monarchs important?

Monarchs are important for many reasons! They may not be as good of pollinators as bees, but they are what we call a flagship species for conservation. This means that monarchs are well-known and very likeable, so people are more likely to get involved in working to protect them. By promoting habitat restoration for monarchs, other pollinators and wildlife species are also benefiting. Milkweed is a great nectar source for pollinators and provides habitat and plant diversity in a number of different landscapes. 

Is non-native tropical milkweed harmful to monarchs?

In some geographic locations, it may be. In parts of the southern U.S. and California where they do not experience freezing winters, tropical milkweed is able to persist year round. Research shows that this may be increasing the prevalence of the OE parasite in monarchs, which can be very harmful for the migratory population. Read more about the risks of planting non-native milkweed for monarchs on this Monarch Joint Venture fact sheet

What is the most important thing I can do for monarchs in the U.S.?

One of the biggest concerns that we have for monarchs in the U.S. is loss of breeding habitat. The most important thing that you can do for monarchs to help create breeding habitat is to plant milkweed! Visit for more information.  

What are the top five things I can do to help monarchs?

It’s hard to pick a top 5, but here are some things that you can do (in no particular order): 

  • Plant native milkweeds and nectar plants
  • Avoid pesticides to minimize impact on pollinators
  • Support monarch conservation organizations like the Monarch Lab, Monarch Joint Venture, and Monarch Butterfly Fund, among others
  • Become a citizen scientist volunteer and monitor monarchs in your area
  • Create an outdoor learning space or garden to educate youth about pollinators and conservation
  • Advocate for monarch/pollinator conservation by reaching out to politicians in your area
  • Educate others by providing outreach programs or reaching out to local media

Help spread the word! 

Why is the monarch population declining?

The monarch population decline is a problem with many causes, as commonly stated by Dr. Karen Oberhauser. There are many factors that can influence the population. One of the major concerns is habitat loss in breeding, migrating, and overwintering areas. In the U.S. and Canada we are concerned about the loss of quality breeding habitat due to development, agricultural expansion, and the increasing use of herbicide tolerant crops (which have essentially eliminated milkweeds from the agricultural landscape where they were once very abundant). Additional habitat loss can be attributed to land management practices, such as increased pesticide use and mowing to control unwanted species. Logging in Mexico is still somewhat of a concern, although the problem was reduced when a decree was set in place to protect the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. Other concerns in overwintering colonies include diversion of water for agriculture, predation, and to some extent, tourism (high traffic) at the overwintering sites. 

Monarchs also face risks from decreasing migratory habitat; migratory habitat means abundant nectar and resting spaces available for spring and fall migrations. Climate change may be impacting monarchs, though less has been studied regarding this. In addition, monarchs face risks from natural enemies and disease and potential risks from non-native plant species like tropical milkweed and swallow-wort. Tropical milkweed, if grown in locations in the southern US and California, may persist year round. Research has shown that this is increasing the prevalence of the OE parasite in monarchs. Black and pale swallow-worts can act as a sink for monarchs, because females may lay eggs on the plant thinking that it is milkweed, but their offspring cannot feed on it and will die.  

Will the monarch population recover?

We hope so, but it is hard to predict how a population will resond to environmental changes, especially when there are so many factors to take into account. By providing suitable breeding and migratory habitat in the U.S. and Canada, and continuing to protect and restore overwintering sites in Mexico and California, we hope that monarchs will recover from the record-low population numbers we have been seeing recently. 

Are monarchs endangered?

No, monarchs are not listed as an endangered species. Their migration, however, was listed as an endangered phenomenon by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 1983. This does not mean that monarchs are not in dire need of protection. It is important that we take action now to help the monarch migration continue for future generations to enjoy.