It’s one of nature’s most incredible sights: Millions of monarch butterflies, clustered together across the tree line, moving their wings in near unison. As the temperature warms, the butterflies take flight, cascading through the forest in a sea of orange, white and black. No wonder these swarms are, evocatively, also called kaleidoscopes.
Every year, monarch butterflies undertake the arduous 3,000-mile journey from the Great Lakes to winter in California and Mexico. They have followed this migratory path for centuries, pollinating flowers across the continent and inspiring awe in generations of Americans. Now, these creatures — an indelible part of many childhood memories — are under threat.
In July, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) placed the species on its “Red List,” designating it “endangered.” Estimates suggest that the monarch population has declined between 22 percent and 72 percent in the past decade alone; the population in the west has shrunk by an estimated 99.9 percent since the 1980s.