California | Monarch Butterflies now rarer than Starbucks

We’ve posted several times about the plummeting numbers of Monarch Butterflies. Once an abundant species that wintered in vast numbers in Mexican pine forests (check out nature documentaries from just a decade ago that showed whole trees weighed down with hibernating Monarchs), the two populations (western and eastern, divided by the Rockies) are vanishing in an extinction reminiscent of the Passenger Pigeon or Buffalo.

Once such an integral part of the landscape, literally billions of Monarchs were found right across North America. In 2020 the western Monarch was thought to be functionally extinct, and according to recent estimates just 2000 overwintering western Monarchs were counted this year. Eastern Monarchs are headed in the same direction and have declined by more than 80% over the past two decades.

Why? Western Monarchs have been hit hard by a combination of problems that include habitat loss and habitat change (through increasing urbanization and intensive agriculture), pesticides, and climate change – problems that, as with so many of the issues highlighted on this site, are down to us. Dependent on Milkweed, a once equally abundant wildflower of fields, wetlands, and prairies which has lost out to agriculture and land conversion, the butterfly simply can’t find food for its caterpillars and has been trying to reproduce in an agricultural desert that has no room for species like butterflies or bees. If a species can’t replace individuals, it dies out.

None of us were around to witness the slaughter and disappearance of billions of Passenger Pigeons (once the planet’s most abundant bird, the last one, Martha, died alone in Cincinnati Zoo in 1914). But most of us will have seen Monarchs at some point, or seen videos of them shimmering in shards of sunlight. It’s an incredibly depressing thought that if you haven’t and you want to, you really don’t have much time left…


It’s now harder to see a monarch butterfly in California than it is to see a Starbucks.

After two years of record-setting lows of 30,000 butterflies, this year fewer than 2,000 of these orange-and-black beauties were counted in their winter groves.

If we want future generations to live in a world that still has monarchs, we have to act now.

Please support our work for monarchs and other threatened species by giving to the Saving Life on Earth Fund.

The most recent population count shows a heartbreaking decline of 99.9% for monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains.

Eastern monarchs are struggling, too: Their population has declined by more than 80% over the past two decades.

Monarchs are dying off due to pesticides and habitat loss. Last year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed monarchs need protection, but the Trump administration did nothing — and the Biden administration is dragging its feet, too.

The Center is in an all-out race to save these butterflies.

We’re in court to secure the Endangered Species Act protection they need to survive. The Act was created for species like monarchs — there’s no more time to wait.

We’re urging Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to use her emergency authority under the Act to take immediate action for western monarchs.

And we’re pushing Congress to pass the MONARCH Act, which would allocate $25 million per year to help these butterflies recover.

With only 2,000 western monarchs counted overwintering this year, we can’t fathom what we might see — or not see — next year.

Earth is losing nearly a species an hour. More than 1 million species are on track to go extinct in the coming decades.

We can’t imagine a world without monarchs — so please, help us fight for these butterflies and for all species facing extinction.

Please give to the Saving Life on Earth Fund today.

Center for Biological Diversity, 13 July 21