Help Rescue the Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterflies are in danger – so much so that they may soon be officially endangered . Due to deforestation, climate change and related habitat loss, the monarch population is dropping sharply , and the US Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to decide on adding the monarch to the endangered species list later this year.

This is bad news for the planet. Sure, monarch butterflies are nice to look at, but they are also important pollinators as well as a food source for other birds and insects. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reverse the downward spiral in population size.

Build a butterfly garden

If you have an open area that gets some direct sun, plant flowers in a small pollinator garden that attract butterflies, bees, moths, and other insects.

You will definitely want to include Euphorbia – the only plant that the monarch’s caterpillars eat. Swamp euphorbia works best, but other types of euphorbia will work as well. From there, consider adding a variety of flowers and plants that are easy for you to care for ( native to your region ), as well as some that will thrive any time of the year.

The University of Illinois Extension has a handy list of plants to start with, and the Fish and Wildlife Service has a basic garden guide for pollinators .

And if you don’t have a yard, a planter or pot on the balcony will do.

Participate in tracking and researching monarchs

It’s a little more difficult than watching a garden grow, but it can be a particularly fun project for your kids. There are several groups that are tracking monarch populations and migration patterns to better understand the behavior of butterflies and hopefully find ways to keep more of them alive and reproduce.

One option is to join the University of Illinois I-Pollinate project, which involves planting an I-Pollinate garden according to the project’s specifications, then spending about two hours a month observing flowers and pollinators and feeding the data back into the project.

Another group, the Monarch joint venture, can put you in touch with a survey or monitoring program in your area .

Another easy step? Spread the word. Encourage your friends and neighbors to grow their own pollinator gardens and share milkweed seeds everywhere to preserve a food source for the monarchs.

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