It’s official. The Monarch Butterfly is on the endangered species list. There was once billions, now it is millions. And although that sounds like a lot, it’s not. The continued downward trend of their population makes this an urgent post. Along with Monarchs, other butterflies and bees are disappearing too. What a colorless sky we may have.
Where did they go? The loss of habitat (industrialization, commercial farms, over building) is one of the key factors contributing to their population decline. They also lose habitat when we put in lawns and take out native plants like milkweed where they lay their eggs and other pollinator friendly plants. Another reason is pesticides. We are killing them off in both large scale pesticide use in factory farms across America as well as small scale residential usage on our lawns, gardens and weeds. Glyphosate or Round Up as it’s known to consumers is one example of a toxic chemical with adverse effects on our environment, animals and insects including butterflies, bees and birds. Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides. Often, they are used to coat seeds to protect them when they are planted in the ground. After the seed germinates, the pesticide spreads throughout the growing plant and guards it against nibbling insects. But the insecticide is also present in the nectar and pollen, meaning pollinators get dosed, too. Read more on how Europe has banned them from outdoor use on Beeresponsible.com. Neonic is found to make Monarchs sterile so they are unable to reproduce. Unable to reproduce! We are doing that! Bees are suffering too. They contribute to 1/3 of our food supply and they are disappearing in record numbers as well.
What can we do? I firmly believe; with information comes responsibility.
Monarchs can only lay eggs on milkweed. Plant milkweed like crazy all over your yard. Ask businesses and townships to plant milkweed. Ask cemeteries, golf courses, parks, condo associations, schools, shopping centers, libraries, gyms, community gardens and wherever you have a connection where someone will listen and take action. Maybe you own a business, sit on a board or work for the government where your voice is instrumental in saving these beautiful flyers. We can do this. We can do hard things. People are already taking action by taking out parts of their lawns in favor of meadows with native plants. It looks super cute! It helps pollinators, saves on water (don’t get me started) and you don’t need fertilizer or weed killer. If you can’t do a portion of your lawn, do a corner or small section. See pics below. Here are some images of how it can look.
Boycott pesticides like Neonic and Round Up/glyphosate. Ask your local nursery to buy plants free of pesticides. Support heirloom seed growers. Message these companies on Facebook: Home Depot, Lowes and Walmart to stop selling Round Up and plants with Neonic. Call or email too.
Ask your town or city to stop mowing fields and the sides of highways in favor of flat grass. Animals cannot hide, forage or reproduce without natural habitat. Why are we favoring mowing down beautiful foliage that supports nature? It will save your town or city tons of money if they stop mowing. Money well spent doing other things we actually need.
Spread the word. Share this article. Visit native plant centers online and support their mission. Buy the book Bicycling with Butterflies by Sara Dykman who was the first person to ride her bike alongside the 10,000 mile Monarch migration from Mexico, around USA and Canada and back to their overwintering spot. Her book is a wonderful adventure about cycling, humanity and science. Support Monarch educational and non profit groups whose mission is conservation. Here are two links: Monarch Watch and Monarch Joint Venture. Follow them on social media and $upport in any way if you can.
Where to buy milkweed, native plants and other pollinator friendly kits and flowers. There are many places to start, including supporting local nurseries if they carry natives. They should- so ask if they will. But you can also buy seeds and plants online. The Native American Seed Company, Monarch Watch has resources, Save Our Monarchs and American Meadows are just a few I have found doing great things to support butterflies, bees, birds and other critters.
If you can do one or two of the things mentioned, it’s a wonderful start to save these and other beautiful and important creatures. Let’s color our world with more butterflies!
Years ago, I didn’t understand the bumpersticker I used to see; “I Brake for Butterflies”. Now I realize how truly important that is.