Planting a butterfly garden isn’t enough to help monarchs thrive in North America, according to the USDA. A new study published last week in the journal Science and Nature illustrates the deadly relationship between the neonicotinoid insecticide clothianidin and the rapid decline of monarch butterfly populations over the past 20 years in North America. The USDA research shows that the butterflies are facing a two-fold fight for survival. On one hand, farmers are eradicating milkweeds, the main food source of monarch caterpillars, by using the Monsanto herbicide RoundUp. On the other, neonicotinoids used to control other insect pests are also being applied in agriculture fields and, as the report indicates, “negatively affect larval monarch populations.” The USDA report is the first to link neonicotinoids to monarch butterfly survival and reproduction. This news comes on the heels of a ban on neonicotinoid insecticides in Portland, Oregon, where city officials were concerned about its lethal impact on local bees.
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