Each year monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus, travel 3,000 miles migrating to and from overwintering sites in Mexico. It is known to be one of the most spectacular migration events on earth, but it appears to be in decline. There are many factors affecting monarch populations including; habitat loss, drought conditions, misuse of pesticides, reduced availability of milkweed and illegal logging operations in overwintering habitat. Over 6,000 acres of prime caterpillar development, refueling and overwintering monarch habitat is lost each year to development. An estimated 90% decline in migrating populations has been recorded in recent years, a loss felt through the ecosystem, agriculture and community. Monarch butterflies are important pollinators, which are necessary for a large percentage of agricultural food production as well as landscape plant reproduction.
How You can Help!
There are many ways to get involved in saving the monarch butterfly population from planting butterfly attracting plants to lobbying for land use changes, everyone can play a part:
Plant Milkweed– Monarch caterpillars depend on milkweed for their growth and development. There are hundreds of native milkweed species in the United States, check out: http://www.monarchwatch.org/ to find out which milkweed species to plant in your region.
Plant Butterfly Attracting Plants– Adult butterflies feed on plant nectar to provide necessary energy for breeding, migrations and store reserves for winter. Including plants preferred by butterflies in your garden will help them survive and thrive. Download a list of plants attractive to monarch butterflies here: http://pollinator.org/PDFs/MonarchGardenPlants.pdf.
Get Involved with Public Decision Making Processes– Open spaces, green spaces, roadsides, parks and utility rights of way are all opportunities to create or maintain butterfly habitat. Get and stay involved with local land use decision-making to conserve and create habitat.
Citizen Science Sighting and Tracking – Data collected by concerned citizens around the world is helpful in making empirical analyses regarding butterfly population changes. Register at http://www.journeynorth.org/ to record your sightings and have your data included in the broader effort.
Maintain Your Landscape Responsibly– The proper use of insecticides and herbicides combined with cultural pest control methods will help with the preservation of these sensitive and important species. Your arborist can develop an integrated pest management plan for your landscape that will help achieve health and vigor in your plants while protecting the environment. Pesticides should always be applied by a trained technician for proper usage and targeted control.