The Extinction of Monarch Butterflies

On April 14th, subject expert Gary Liska explained why monarch butterflies have moved from threatened to endangered status. Liska has been studying these insects for approximately 50 years as he was inspired as a kid.

“I would ride my bike and I was fascinated by seeing these insects every day and that’s what started my journey,” he stated.

He discussed different elements in the life of monarch butterflies along with the threats causing their extinction, as well as a way people can help with conservation efforts to support the butterflies.

The monarch butterfly's lifespan is only 4-5 weeks, which is a very short life considering it is their maximum span without being affected by threats. If the butterflies are able to stay alive and reproduce, they can achieve 4-5 generations yearly. Although the female monarchs lay around 300-400 eggs, only one or two make it. Even with the mothers laying the eggs in what they believe to be safe places on leaves, the chances of the eggs hatching are still low due to the predators that are roaming around plants. 

“As of June 23, 2021, the monarch butterflies went from threatened to endangered,” Liska stated. 

One thing that Liska does for research purposes is tagging the butterflies, a conservation technique used to track their migration patterns. The process involves attaching small, lightweight tags to the wings of monarch butterflies using a special adhesive. These tags typically contain a unique identification number that can be used to track the butterfly's movements.

Liska talked about how one day he went to check on the butterflies that he tagged and found out that one of them had migrated from Pennsylvania to Mexico, a journey of about 2,500 miles. These insects hold the record for the world’s longest migration.

“The monarch butterflies are very important to the Mexican culture as a source for celebration and hope,” said Liska. There is even a spiritual connection. It is believed that the monarchs come back as family members during Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations. Monarchs are also a source of income for Mexican children, who can find and collect the tags for $5.

A thriving monarch population is a sign of a healthy environment. 

The number of predators and threats towards the monarch and their low birth rate are the main reasons for their decline. Their predators are insects like jumping spiders, ants, stink bugs, wasps, the oriole bird, and many more.

The man-made threats are urbanization, GMO products, climate change caused by man, and more.

The best way to help these creatures is by planting more milkweed. Milkweed is the only plant that monarch butterflies lay their eggs on, and it is also the primary source of food for their caterpillars.

Monarch caterpillars are able to eat the leaves of milkweed plants without competition because the plants contain toxins that most other animals can't tolerate. These toxins actually make the monarch caterpillars and butterflies toxic to their predators, providing them with a natural defense mechanism.

To learn more about the monarch butterflies, visit or email Liska for more information at