Last week the migrating monarch butterfly was added to the “red list” of threatened species and categorized as “endangered” for the first time by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. That’s two steps from extinct in the wild.
Scientists blame the monarchs’ plummeting numbers on habitat loss, climate change, and pesticide and herbicide use.
Here is how you can personally help the troubled monarch butterflies:
♥ PLANT (THE RIGHT KIND!) OF MILKWEED: If everyone reading this planted one milkweed plant, it could make a huge difference in saving these beautiful (and crucial) creatures! Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) is the only plant monarch caterpillars eat, and it is where the adult butterflies lay their eggs. Without it, the species simply could not exist.
Important: To choose the right milkweed, use the National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder (https://www.nwf.org/nativeplantfinder/)
♥ PLANT NECTAR-BEARING FLOWERS: Adult monarchs need other plants too, specifically ones with nectar-bearing flowers. The National Wildlife Federation also has a Monarch Nectar Plant List tool (https://www.nwf.org/Garden-for-Wildlife/About/Native-Plants/Monarch-Nectar-Guides), developed with Monarch Joint Venture and Xerces Society, to find plants appropriate for your location.
Choose plants native to your region for the highest-quality food source. Be sure to include late-season bloomers to provide monarchs with fuel for their annual fall migration.
♥ AVOID USING PESTICIDES/HERBICIDES: Use only safe pesticides/herbicides on your lawn and garden. Neonicotinoid pesticides are especially harmful to the species as they can kill bees and adult butterflies that ingest the toxic pollen and nectar of treated plants.
It is important to note that buying plants for your garden and outside your home can be risky because plants already treated with Neonicotinoid pesticides are not labeled as such. The solution? Buy plants only from trusted, organic sources or grow your own plants from seed.
Important: Remember that even natural and organic pesticides can harm butterflies and other pollinators. But if you must use such a product, stick with insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils or Neem oil, and apply them only after dusk, when pollinators are not active. Unlike many synthetic chemicals, these products lose their effectiveness when dry, so the butterflies will be safer by morning.
♥ MAKE A BUTTERFLY MUD PUDDLE! Create a butterfly puddling station: Create a mud puddle (or add water to sand) in a sunny spot of the yard and set a flat stone within it. Butterflies will sun themselves on the stone to raise their temperatures, and will sip water from the puddle to supplement their nectar diets with the salts, vitamins and minerals they need.