Monarch butterflies made the agenda for yesterday’s discussion between President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Enrique Peña Nieto, referred to as the “Three Amigos” in a New York Times article. The article describes that “the leaders agreed to create a working group to study ways to protect the monarch butterfly”. Monarch and other pollinator conservation organizations along with countless passionate individuals and groups have created a solid foundation for protecting the monarch migration, so it is exciting to have the ear of our government.
Spring is quickly approaching and monarchs are getting ready to disburse from their overwintering locations in Mexico and California in search of milkweed on which to lay their eggs. Let’s not only continue, but improve what we are doing to help conserve this amazing phenomenon!
What YOU can do to help monarchs:
- Create Habitat! The vast majority of monarchs that reach their overwintering destinations started as an egg on a milkweed plant in either Canada or the U.S. Monarch caterpillars require milkweed to develop into beautiful adult butterflies, but their needs don’t stop there. A variety of nectar plants serve as food for monarchs during their breeding season and migration. Migratory monarchs rely on nectar sources across their migratory corridors to survive first, the journey itself, and second, the winter in Mexico or California. A nectar shortage during the incredible migratory journey can make monarchs that reach overwintering locations more susceptible to starvation. Create a new monarch habitat or improve an existing one this year, or better yet, do both! We want to recognize your habitat on our new “Success Stories” map, check it out!
- Avoid Pesticides! Monarchs and other beneficial pollinators often fall victim to pesticides which were not intended to target them. It is important to minimize our use of pesticides and advocate for more environmentally (and pollinator) friendly management, both large and small scale. For gardeners, it is important to purchase plants that you know have not been treated with systemic insecticides. Ask questions before you purchase plants, as plants treated with systemic insecticides can be detrimental to pollinators long after they are planted in the ground.
- Educate Others! We have described monarchs as a flagship species for conservation. One of the most impressive things about monarchs is their ability to reach and inspire a diverse audience. Their broad geographic range brings together people from across the nation and between nations for the ultimate goal of protecting an amazing phenomenon, the migration. Networks of organizations and individuals spread across these nations are introducing monarchs to others and sharing the dire need for more intense conservation and monitoring efforts to protect them. There are many avenues for monarch education. Teachers can utilize monarchs in their classrooms or schoolyard gardens; citizen scientists can share their observations with researchers to inform conservation efforts; organizations or businesses can promote monarch friendly practices; and anyone can display educational signs or have an informal conversation about monarchs.
- Monitor Monarchs! Citizen science is a great way to contribute to monarch conservation. Volunteers collect data to share with researchers, who can then use the information to help inform priority monarch conservation efforts. Monarchs offer a wide variety of citizen science programs to participate in, including searching for eggs and larvae, tagging migratory butterflies, studying parasites, and even just reporting a monarch sighting. More information on monarch citizen science programs can be found on the Get Involved page of our website.
- Support Monarch Conservation! Monarch conservation organizations need your support. The Monarch Joint Venture is a partnership bringing together numerous different monarch and pollinator focused organizations in the U.S. to conserve the monarch migration. Guided by the North American Monarch Conservation Plan, we have laid out priority areas for monarch conservation in the U.S. and have enlisted various partners to help achieve these goals. Together we can accomplish more, support monarch conservation through the Monarch Joint Venture today!