Create, Conserve, Protect…
The Monarch butterfly migration is a phenomenon, mainly across North America, where millions of Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) migrate from the United States and Canada to mountains in central Mexico, where they wait out the winter until conditions favor a return flight in the spring. Eastern Monarchs spend summers east of the Rocky Mountain range and travel over 3,000 miles to overwinter in Oyamel forests in the mountains of Central and South West Mexico. The western Monarch population spends summers west of the Rocky Mountain range in North America and overwinters in California along the Pacific coast near Santa Cruz and San Diego.
Status: The monarch migration is truly one of the world’s greatest natural wonders yet it is threatened by habitat loss at overwintering grounds in Mexico and throughout breeding areas in the United States and Canada. Monarch butterflies have declined an average of 90% over the past 20 years. From the 1990’s to the 2018 winter count, the Eastern Monarch population has declined from 1 billion to 225 million butterflies, and the Western Monarch population reached historic lows in 2018 with an 86% decline from 2017, overall declining from 1.2 million to fewer that 30,000 butterflies over the past 20 years. Recent studies show that if the current trend continues, both Monarch populations will collapse within the next 20 years.
The Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety extended the deadline for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to decide on protection of monarch butterflies under the Endangered Species Act. Due to the extreme effects climate had on the butterfly’s population last year, two more overwintering counts will need to become available before a decision is issued in December 2020.
Reasons for the decline: According to Dr. Chip Taylor, Director of Monarch Watch (monarchwatch.org), “We are losing habitat in this country at a rapid pace of 6,000 acres per day, or a loss of 2.2 million acres per year. Further, the overuse of herbicides along roadsides and elsewhere is turning diverse areas that support Monarchs, pollinators, and other wildlife into grass-filled landscapes that support very few species. The adoption of genetically modified soybean and corn have further reduced Monarch habitat. If these trends continue, Monarchs are certain to decline, threatening the very existence of their magnificent migration.”
Create, Conserve, Protect Monarch habitats: To restore habitats for Monarchs, pollinators and wildlife in general, Monarch Watch has a nationwide landscape restoration program called “Bring Back the Monarchs”. The goals of this program are to restore 20 milkweed species to their native ranges throughout the United States and to encourage planting of nectar-producing native flowers that support adult Monarchs and other pollinators.
You can help! Monarchs cannot survive without Milkweed plants, as it is the only host plant eaten by newly hatched Monarch eggs and caterpillars, but you can help! By planting Milkweed with some of the Monarch’s favorite nectar producing flowers every year in your yard, garden, or community, and reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides and herbicides, you will be providing food and shelter for Monarchs and other native butterflies and bees. I truly believe that by caring for native wildlife in our own backyard or in our community, each of us can make a difference and keep these beautiful butterflies alive for future generations!
Perennial Host plants for Monarchs – Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa), Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Annual and perennial Nectar plants – Zinnia (Zinnia elegans), Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia), Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella), Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa), Bee Balm (Monarda)
Links and Resources
- MonarchWatch.org – Education, conservation, research of Monarchs
- http://www.monarchjointventure.org– Partnering across the U.S. to conserve the Monarch migration
- https://www.nwf.org/garden-for-wildlife – Creating a natural and sustainable garden that helps wildlife
- https://wildones.org/ – Healing the earth one yard at a time