Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Plight of the Monarch Butterfly

Have you noticed how few Monarch butterflies there are this summer? It’s because the population is dwindling. According to the Xerces Society, the Monarch population has dropped by ninety percent. You read that right—ninety percent!

That makes me sad. How about you? In years past, I used to see dozens of Monarchs flitting about my flower gardens and across my back yard. This summer, I’ve seen less than a handful, even though I have planted many flowers that attract them.

The main reason for the Monarch’s decline is loss of habitat. Drought throughout the Monarch’s central pathway to their seasonal destinations and the wide-spread use of the herbicide Roundup has decreased the Monarch’s principal source of sustainment—the milkweed—the main plant that caterpillars need for food.

Standing in one of my flower gardens
Even though the Monarch’s future looks bleak, there are some simple, positive steps you and I can take to help this fragile creature survive. First of all, plant flowers that attract butterflies (such as butterfly weed and zinnias). You can purchase them at your local nursery, but make sure pesticides have not been sprayed on the plants. Second, plant a stand-alone milkweed garden (just a small plot) with at least six plants so the caterpillars have enough food to survive. We can't restore their old habitat, but we can replace it, one yard at a time.
*     *     * has had a passion for books since the second grade when she discovered Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. She wrote her first book, a mystery, at age thirteen and has been writing ever since. She lives on six wooded acres in East Bethel, Minnesota with her husband, Steve and her three problem (feline) children, Mocha, Lambchop and Tigger. You can visit her at her website, blog or Facebook.


  1. Thank you for that reminder about milkweed. I remember it was everywhere, when I was growing up in Minnesota, and I haven't seen any in years. I heard a program about the monarchs on public radio a while back and then forgot to follow up. Im heading to google right now to see about finding milkweed seeds.'

    1. The Xerces Society has a milkweed project with several states to produce habitat restoration areas, which are probably on lands already set aside for conservation. I live next to the Carlos-Avery wildlife management area and the U of M's Cedar Creek Naturalization Area. I'm sure they are working on increasing their milkweed content, but one of the best ways to sustain Monarchs is for homeowners to make their yards butterfly-friendly. I used to pull out the milkweeds in my garden, but now that I know how important they are, I'm making a special spot in both my yard and my horse pen (which is no longer in use). I'm hoping that in the future milkweed seeds will become as easy to buy at the garden center as other flowers. For now, I'm just harvesting them from the plants I already have.

  2. Here is one that I found!

    We need your help. Plant Milkweed everywhere!

    Send a self addressed, stamped envelope for Milkweed or mixed seeds appropriate for your area to:

    Live Monarch - Seed Campaign 2014
    3003-C8 Yamato Road #1015
    Boca Raton, Florida 33434

    Cash or Check payable to "Live Monarch" 50+ seeds per dollar

    Please request the type of seed you want. Instructions included.
    To order online use the links below.

    (I missed the bottom part, but you could google using what I pasted above)

  3. Thank you for posting this, Denise. I don't have a yard anymore, but will nudge some friends who do. Roxanne--thanks for the milkweed info.

  4. Gosh, I learned something today. Thanks, Denise.

  5. It's so rare to see a butterfly nowadays. And now I know why.

  6. Thanks for the reminder, Denise. 90%!! I had no idea. I'm definitely going to look into planting milkweed.

  7. Okay. There's some kind of crazy karma going on. I've owned my house for eleven years and have never seen a Monarch butterfly anywhere around here, until today. I just walked outside and saw one perched on my lemon tree. I wasn't quick enough to get a picture of it, but it was definitely a Monarch. I'm definitely ordering milkweed seeds now. Besides, then I'll have an excuse for not weeding my yard. "I'm feeding the caterpillars!"