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Study: Declined about 80 percent in last decade

Posted at 3:15 PM, Apr 25, 2016

Monarch butterflies are facing the risk of a quasi-extinction.

A new study in the journal Scientific Reports says the population could decline in the next 20 years with little chance of rebound.

The study says the population has declined by about 80 percent in the last decade.

The reasoning is a combination of habitat threat, increased use of insecticides and herbicides, and threats to food sources, including milkweed, the host plant caterpillars eat.

"Milkweed has been in decline in the U.S. because, as the name suggests, it's a weed," said Sarah Garrett, a lepidopterist at the Butterfly Pavilion in Colorado. "People don't want it in their backyard."

Adult Monarchs are also experiencing a food shortage when it comes to nectar, along their 2,000-mile migratory route.

"When it takes a pit stop, its nectar source might be there, it might not," said Garrett.

Experts at the Butterfly Pavilion say there are steps the public can take to help save Monarch butterflies from extinction.

"Everybody can help. Everybody can plant some milkweed," said Mary Ann Colley, Vice President of Science and Conservation. "Everybody can plant a nectar source in their garden, front yard, in a pot."

If nothing is done, researchers say there is an 11 to 57 percent chance of hitting the dangerous threshold.

The total number of butterflies is measured by the amount of land the wintering population covers in Mexico.

"It really is hard to imagine something as iconic as the Monarch going extinct," said Garrett.

If you are interested in protecting populations, click here to read more about butterfly Citizen Science programs nationwide.