There are few things more beautiful and peaceful in the spring and summer in Iowa than watching a migratory monarch butterfly in action. Unfortunately, they've just been added to the international endangered list.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has added the migratory monarch butterfly to its "red list" and also characterized it as "endangered," or just two steps from extinction.

Photo by Gary Bendig on Unsplash
Photo by Gary Bendig on Unsplash
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The IUCN says that the population of migratory monarch butterflies,

"has shrunk by between 22% and 72% over the past decade. Legal and illegal logging and deforestation to make space for agriculture and urban development has already destroyed substantial areas of the butterflies’ winter shelter in Mexico and California, while pesticides and herbicides used in intensive agriculture across the range kill butterflies and milkweed, the host plant that the larvae of the monarch butterfly feed on.

Climate change has significantly impacted the migratory monarch butterfly and is a fast-growing threat; drought limits the growth of milkweed and increases the frequency of catastrophic wildfires, temperature extremes trigger earlier migrations before milkweed is available, while severe weather has killed millions of butterflies."

The IUCN also says that populations in both the western and eastern U.S. have plummeted. In the last 40 years, monarch populations in the west are down more than 99 percent while the eastern population declined nearly 85 percent from the mid-1990s through 2014. Remarkably, despite being discussed two years ago, the migratory monarch butterfly has not been added to the list of endangered species by the United States itself.

What migratory monarch butterflies do each spring and fall is remarkable. They typically travel between 25 and 30 miles per day when migrating and will travel as much as 3,000 miles, according to Monarch Joint Venture. The Associated Press says it's the "longest migration of any insect species known to science." Summer monarchs live only between two and six weeks. However, the migratory generation of migratory monarchs can live as long as nine months.

What can Iowans do to help monarch populations? The Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids says the first thing is to plant more milkweeds. Monarch caterpillars feed only on milkweed leaves. Without them, development into a butterfly isn't possible.

Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash
Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash
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Photo by r m on Unsplash
Photo by r m on Unsplash
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The Indian Creek Nature Center says you should also "consider a more natural lawn and reduce or limit your use of pesticides." They also suggest you support organizations that "educate our community on the importance of pollinators." These include the local Monarch Research Project, which partners with the Indian Creek Nature Center.

Photo by Alex Guillaume on Unsplash
Photo by Alex Guillaume on Unsplash
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