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Monarch butterfly at risk of going extinct. What Arizonans can do to help

Experts say in the 1980s, there were approximately 10 million Monarch butterflies in the West. As of 2021, there were only about 2,000.

PHOENIX — The iconic orange and black Monarch butterfly has been placed on an international list of endangered species. 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the monarch butterfly in general, specifically the butterflies living in the Western United States.

RELATED: One of the most recognizable butterflies in the world is now on the endangered list

Experts say in the 1980s, there were approximately 10 million Monarch butterflies in the West. As of 2021, there were only about 2,000.

"Climate change, whether it's warmer in certain regions where they're not getting the trigger that triggers them to migrate," said Adriane Grimaldi, Director of Education at Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale. "So they're staying there in place longer."

The Monarch butterfly migrates from Canada and the Northern US to Mexico for the Winter, then back up. Grimaldi said that staying in a warmer place disrupts the journey and makes it more likely that the butterfly could die before reproducing. 

Habitat and food sources are also being lost, Grimaldi said.

Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed, so Grimaldi said the best way to help the butterflies is to plant more. 

Experts at the Desert Botanical Garden said Arizona has about 30 different kinds of milkweed, with one being named after the state. 

“The females are much more likely to lay eggs on the Arizona Milkweed than other ones we've tested, and the caterpillars are much more likely to survive," Pollinator Conservation Director Kim Pegram said.

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