Colorful, majestic, and alluring — welcome to the magical world of monarch butterflies. Well, if you are like most gardeners, the sight of these iconic black-and-orange butterflies in your garden will simply knock your sock off. I know I love them, and so do my little ones. We spend the better part of fall afternoons watching them dash from one flower to the next.
Did you know these beautiful creatures migrate 1500+ miles? Sadly, the population of monarch butterflies has been plummeting in the last several years, with nearly 80 percent already wiped out since 1990. It honestly makes me sad to see fewer and fewer of them every passing year. Even worse, scientists and butterfly researchers think this trend might stick if nothing is done.
Are you wondering what you can do to help? Here are some ways you can help save monarch butterflies from extinction.
#1. Include Caterpillar-Friendly Plants in your Garden
Like most caterpillars, monarch caterpillars are avid eaters, who consume lots of foliage every day. Turns out, adult monarch butterflies lay their eggs only on Asclepias (or what’s popularly known as milkweed) species. Why? It so happens that milkweed is the only plant that monarch caterpillars will feed on. Thankfully, there are more than 100 milkweed species you can grow in your backyard, including swamp milkweed, common milkweed, and butterfly milkweed.
You can source milkweed seeds and tubers from most garden supply stores. They happen to do well in nicely-drained soil. Plant as many as you can, and come this fall you’ll have lots of monarch butterflies swarming around your garden.
#2. Give them Food: Grow Nectar Plants
Adult monarch butterflies, like most flies, suck nectar for food. Growing nectar-rich sunflower plants like calendula, asters, coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, and zinnias will help the butterflies power through the season.
#3. Create an Enabling Habitat
Create a few shallow divots in your garden so that adult monarch butterflies can get a sip of water and derive minerals from the soil. Apart from a landing pad, ensure that you grow shrubs and trees where they can roost when it’s cold at night.
#4. Avoid Use of Pesticides if Possible
If you care about these wondrous creatures, use of pesticides on your garden is a big no-no. Pesticides not only harm their larvae, eggs, and caterpillars, but they also destroy milkweed plants, their favorite breeding ground.
#5. Join Monarch Watch movement
Monarch Watch is a group of thousands of conservationists whose primary aim is to save monarch butterflies. Start off by certifying your garden as a Monarch Waystation. This way, you will raise awareness and encourage others to follow suit.
These are just but a few ways you can lend a hand in the fight for the survival of monarch butterflies. You might also want to stay away from GMO foods because the way they are produced is partly to blame for declining monarch butterfly population.