Saving Monarch Butterflies

Learn how you can help increase the Monarch population

The Monarch butterfly is sometimes known as the “King of the Butterflies”. It’s no wonder since the Monarch is probably one of the most recognized butterflies in the U.S. However, you may have noticed that you don’t see Monarch butterflies like you used to. That is because the population of the Monarch butterfly is down 90% since 1992. That is huge! The milkweed population is also down nearly 90%. This is all according to saveourMonarchs.org. It’s obvious to me that the decline of the milkweed population has directly affected the Monarch population.

The only source of food for a Monarch caterpillar is the milkweed plant. With development of land and widespread use of weed killers, the milkweed population is almost non-existent. That is why it is so important to grow milkweed in your own landscape. Without milkweed we would no longer have Monarch butterflies.

The adult Monarch will lay its eggs on the milkweed plant where the eggs will hatch into larvae (caterpillar). It takes about 4 days for the eggs to hatch. At this point, the caterpillars eat the milkweed plant. The caterpillars will be fully grown in about 2 weeks and then will attach themselves to the stem of the milkweed where they will turn into a chrysalis (also known as a pupa). In about 10 days a full grown Monarch butterfly will emerge from the pupa. The adult butterflies will live another 2-6 weeks before beginning the cycle all over again. Once the adult Monarch butterfly lays eggs, it will die.

There are generally four generations of Monarch butterflies every summer, so it’s never too late to add milkweed plants to your landscape. That is probably the number one thing you can do to help save the Monarch butterfly population, grow milkweed. You can purchase milkweed at some mom & pop type nurseries and garden centers or you could request free seeds from saveourMonarchs.org.

Following are some things you can do to help save the Monarchs:

  1. Grow milkweed plants. If you do nothing else, this is a must. Without milkweed Monarch butterflies simply cannot exist. Since the caterpillars will eat the leaves of the milkweed plant, the plants won’t look so pretty, so plant them in the back of the garden or along the edge of ditches and the woods where they are not as noticeable to us humans. Read more about growing milkweed here.
  2. Stop using broad spectrum synthetic herbicides. Herbicides kill too many native plants that are important to wildlife.
  3. Stop using broad spectrum synthetic pesticides. Pesticides kill butterfly larvae and adult butterflies in alarmingly high numbers. If you stop using pesticides for a few years, you will notice that the good bugs will eventually repopulate and eat the bad bugs.
  4. Grow plants that butterflies are attracted to. Read more about attracting butterflies here.

I hope this article gives you a little more understanding on how to help increase the Monarch butterfly population.

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