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Butterflies Worth Billions

Nov 06, 2013


  • Conservation Stories

How do you value monarchs? Whether raising caterpillars with your children or grandchildren or standing in awe of a stunning adult monarch as it sails between milkweed patches and flowers, most people set a high value on the connection they have to monarchs. I (Wendy Caldwell) had the opportunity to visit two different overwintering colonies in Mexico last February, and even though the population was at its all-time low, it’s hard to put the impact this experience had on me into words. Monarchs truly are amazing insects; recent studies show just how meaningful they are to Americans and what actions they would take to ensure that monarchs flourish for future generations to enjoy.

A recent article published in Conservation Letters based their suggestion that U.S. households value monarchs at up to 6 ½ billion dollars on results from an annual survey of the National Gardening Association.  Because monarchs traverse between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada, they rely on a wide geographic area to survive. The study showed that not only are people willing to support monarchs locally, but they are willing to provide support for other regions that monarchs inhabit. In addition, Jay Diffendorfer, lead author, states that “this study shows that not only might consumers pay more for monarch-friendly milkweeds grown without systemic insecticides in the potting soil, but also that consumers might be more interested overall in buying nectar-producing plants or milkweeds if they knew a small percentage of sales will be donated to habitat conservation.” For monarch conservation organizations, this notion is remarkable. Widespread and generous willingness to pay for monarch conservation and education activities will help protect the monarch migration and associated memories and experiences.

The Monarch Joint Venture recently conducted another survey, to gauge the importance of Monarch Larva Monitoring Project sites and Monarch Waystations to both monarchs and the people that enjoy the habitats. Many respondents wrote about their desire to help monarchs and other butterflies and pollinators, but on numerous accounts we read of the desire to educate youth and adults and of strong personal connections to monarchs. When asked about their initial motivation to participate in either the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project or the Monarch Waystation program, select volunteers responded an interest or desire to:

“bring back my property site to a more native state. I love seeing and photographing nature at work.”

“bring adults and children together in a small community, heal old feuds between neighbors, inspire families to plant milkweed and protect monarchs”

Provide a “memorial garden for my son and learning experience for my granddaughter”

Take a few minutes to think about your motivation to get involved with monarchs and what they mean to you today. Please like us on Facebook and share your story on our page (

Consider a donation to the Monarch Joint Venture (Donate here) to support monarch conservation in the United States. To read about the work that we have supported, visit the MJV projects page!

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