Ringgold County Conservation doing its part to save butterfly
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Thursday, the Monarch Butterfly was placed onto the endangered species list, confirming that the population had not recovered, despite ongoing attempts to help the numbers improve.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature added the Migrating Monarch Butterfly, for the first time, to its “red list” of threatened species and categorized it as endangered.
Over the past 10 years, the population has declined rapidly, between 22 and 72 percent, depending on the measurement method, according to the IUCN website.
Monarchs are unique, migrating over 2,000 miles across the Americas.
The monarch caterpillar’s food source, milkweed, is vital to its survival, with milkweed being the only plant the caterpillar will eat.
Pesticides and herbicides kill butterflies and the milkweed plant, limiting the number of places mature butterflies can lay eggs to repopulate the species. Drought, logging and deforestation have also contributed to the decline.
The IUCN states that the western population is at the greatest risk, having declined by an estimated 99.9 percent, from as many as 10 million to 1,914 butterflies between 1980 and 2021.
The larger, eastern population has seen an 84 percent decrease between 1996 and 2014.
Ringgold County Conservation hosts an annual monarch tagging program that teaches the community about monarchs, which also allows the tracking of the butterflies migratory pattern. The program started small, but has grown exponentially in the years, thanks to the determination of Ringgold County Conservation Director Kate Zimmerman.
“The Monarch butterfly has played a huge roll in my love of the outdoors and I have worked with them for over 15 years,” said Director Zimmerman. “I have treasured my time with this butterfly, knowing that it was a real possibility to see the extinction of the Monarch butterfly in within my lifetime.”
Zimmerman has long warned those that attend her programs that it wasn’t a matter of if, but when, the butterfly would became endangered.
“It is not a surprise that they have now been listed, but rather a long awaited outcome that conservationists have been warning of,” said Director Zimmerman. “It is a sad day for all when another species has been placed on the Threatened and Endangered Species list.”
This year will be Zimmerman’s 12th year tagging Monarch butterflies in Ringgold County.
Over the past 10 years, she has given 96 monarch butterfly programs with 2,391 people attending. During those programs, 996 Monarch butterflies were tagged, with an average of two to three butterflies being recaptured in Central Mexico after their migration.
This program, called Monarch Watch, has been vital in research and protection of the Monarch Butterfly.
“I truly hope with more education and awareness that humans can turn the tide and help bring back this beloved insect.” said Director Zimmerman.
A few things everyone can do to help the Monarch are plant milkweed and native pollinator plants, use chemicals sparingly and help educate others.
Ringgold County Conservation will be hosting its annual Monarch Tagging event at Fife’s Grove Park on September 3 at 10 a.m.