Richiebits via Wikimedia Commons
The Monarch Butterfly’s numbers have declined dramatically in North America.
We recently learned that the monarch butterfly uses two types of compass to navigate: the sun and the Earth's magnetic field. Neat trick! In honor of that wondrous discovery, let's take a look at more butterflies. They deserve, and clearly crave, the extra attention. Here, monarch butterflies hang in a cluster from a Eucalyptus tree branch in Pismo Beach, Calif. Unlike human cars, the monarch's GPS system comes installed for the low price of free.Monarch Butterflies Use Magnetic Field to Navigate
This great spangled fritillary seems to want to upstage the flower it's resting on. You can find it all across North America. It likes moist places and spending time on the outskirts of wooded areas.New Olive-Eyed Butterfly Can't Fool Around
This blue-and-black little show-off has a rather epic name,
. This one is hanging out in Papua New Guinea's Morobe province.Insect Soup on Menu at Speedy DNA Cafe
Halloween anyone? If this banded orange butterfly suddenly says "Trick or Treat?" we're all going to have to rethink some things about the butterfly. Its native range is Brazil and central Mexico.PHOTOS: Faces of Bees, Flies and Friends
A knight butterfly sits on a leaf, just because it can.PHOTOS: Bugs Make Art
Yep. Exactly what it looks like. You didn't think creatures this pretty would go without mates, did you?
This clouded yellow butterfly, a.k.a.
to the classification crowd, enjoys the color enough to sit on some more of it. Narcissistic much?Don't Move a Monarch Butterfly, It Could Get Lost
The tailed flambeau butterfly,
, just wishes it could find a pumpkin to land on.
This critter on a patch of moss just likes to blend in and look at us with what looks like a huge, extra eye! It doesn't know how rude it is to stare.PHOTOS: Caterpillar to Butterfly in 3D
Meet the emerald swallowtail butterfly,
, caught in flight thanks to high-speed photography.
This blue pansy butterfly,
, rests comfortably on the wing feathers of a grey peacock pheasant. It would have been right at home in the hippie generation.Butterflies Inspire Ultra-Waterproof Materials
Over the past 20 years, North America’s population of monarch butterflies has declined by a catastrophic 90 percent, a plight that may be caused by pesticides and loss of the once-vast acres of wild milkweed that are the creatures’ food source. But now with some fearing that the butterflies — many of which migrate 3,000 miles from Canada and the U.S. to Mexico — are in danger of vanishing completely, the federal government may finally intervene.
On Dec. 29, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it is launching a scientific review to determine whether the monarch butterfly should be protected by law under the Endangered Species Act, a 1973 law designed to protect species from becoming extinct.
The law not only bans the killing designated species or harming it in other ways, but it also requires federal officials to work with state and local agencies to come up with a recovery plan for restoring its numbers. Additionally, the federal government can protect habitat that’s critical to the species. Reuters reports that the review will take a year to complete.
The review was launched in response to a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and renowned monarch scientist and University of Florida professor emeritus Lincoln Brower, who has been studying the species for 60 years and has published more than 200 scientific papers on the subject.
In a press release, the Xerces Society said the North American population of monarchs has declined from 1 billion in 1996 to just 35 million this past winter, the lowest number ever recorded.
Xerces tied the decline of monarchs to the widespread planting of genetically modified corn and soybean crops in the U.S. Midwest, where most of the butterflies are born. The GMO plants are designed to be immune to an herbicide that kills off milkweed.
Over the last two decades, monarchs have lost more than 165 million acres of habitat — an area roughly the size of Texas. In addition, butterflies are threatened by climate change, drought, urban sprawl and logging on their Mexican winter range.