The Monarch butterfly is a pollinator insect that is especially in need of our help. Think about this, in 1996 an estimated 1 billion monarch butterflies migrated to Mexico. But, in 2014 only 60 million monarch butterflies completed their migration. This represents about a 90% decrease.
Two main factors are believed to be contributing to the decline in the monarch butterfly population. First, the population of milkweed plants has been diminishing due to land development and changes in agricultural practices. Secondly, illegal timber harvesting in Mexico is removing the trees the monarch butterfly uses for winter shelter.
While the Mexican government works to stem the illegal harvesting we can play an important role in helping monarch butterflies right in our own backyards; and that would be by growing milkweed plants. The milkweed plant is the only plant that monarch caterpillars will feed on. No milkweed plants means no monarch butterflies. If you have a remote corner of your backyard where milkweed plants can grow out of sight and undisturbed, consider planting a few milkweed plants. Another option would be to create a large bed, or corner planting, where milkweed plants could serve as a background to other pollinator-friendly flowers, annual flowers or flowering perennials.
You can learn more about the plight of monarch butterflies and order milkweed seeds by visiting http://www.saveourmonarchs.org
You can also order monarch butterfly eggs, caterpillars and monarch chrysalises (cocoons) from http://www.butterflybushes.com/butterfly_rearing_kits.htm
Featured image photo at top of page: Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org