In 1992, the Idaho State Legislature adopted the Western Monarch Butterfly as the state’s official insect. It’s one of 11 states that have designated the beautiful orange and black butterfly as its insect.
Not only are they pretty, but they are also incredible migrators. Monarchs living in Idaho during the warmer months travel south to California – wintering by the Pacific coast near Santa Cruz and San Diego. Some travel a few thousand miles to get there, according to the U.S. Forest Service. To reach their destination, it can take almost two months as they travel between 50-100 miles each day.
While it’s likely you’re used to seeing monarchs during the summer months, the monarch population has declined over the last several decades. In fact, it was petitioned to be listed under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2014. Then in 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that listing the monarch butterfly is warranted but focused on other species at the time. The monarch remains a candidate.
“Both North American migratory populations have declined over the past twenty years due to a suite of interrelated factors including habitat loss in breeding and overwintering sites, habitat degradation, disease, pesticide exposure, and climate change,” the CA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife notes.
Monarch caterpillars only eat the leaves of milkweed – making it critical for the insect. Without it the plant, they cannot complete their life cycle and the monarch population decreases, according to National Wildlife Federation.
There are way that people can help Idaho’s insect. “Planting milkweed and other flowers native to your area is the perfect way to create easy to maintain habitat that helps a variety of pollinators,” U.S. Fish and Game’s Tina Shaw wrote.
To learn more about the Western Monarch, click here.