Partnering to conserve the monarch butterfly migration
As you may know, monarchs and other pollinators are in trouble. The monarch population has reached record-low numbers in recent years and could become an endangered species.
You can help monarchs by planting milkweed and wildflowers for them to eat, exploring and learning about pollinators, and sharing what you learn with other people.
Pollinators are animals like bees, butterflies, and bats that carry pollen from flower to flower. Without their help, plants wouldn’t be able to reproduce or make seeds, fruits, berries, and vegetables. Pollinators are responsible for 1 out of every 3 bites of food we eat!
Monarchs are a flagship species for all pollinators. People can learn about and help many pollinators when they plant milkweed and flowers for monarchs. Monarch habitat is shared by butterflies, bees, birds, and many other animals. Monarchs are one piece of a complex food web and ecosystem. Many different kinds of plants support more insects, which provide nutrition for various grassland species.
Pollinator habitat also adds beauty to your yard, both with colorful flowers and by attracting dazzling butterflies and insects of all types.
What Do Monarchs Need?
Milkweed is the only thing monarch caterpillars will eat. So, monarchs need milkweed for food and shelter as caterpillars. Native milkweeds are the best food source for caterpillars. To the right is a picture of swamp milkweed.
Monarchs also need flowers for food as adult butterflies. The adults drink the nectar of many different kinds of flowers. Having flowers that bloom in the spring, summer and fall is best.
Habitat can be created in many places – like in schoolyards or home gardens. Encourage your teachers and parents to plant native milkweed and flowers, and offer to help them in the garden. No space is too small to make a difference!
To take care of your garden, you may need to do some weeding to keep it looking nice and perhaps watering in extremely dry conditions (or right after planting).
What Can YOU Do?
Plant a Garden
Monarchs don’t have enough habitat anymore. With the help of an adult, you can make a difference by planting monarch habitat in your very own backyard! Figuring out where your garden will go and how it will be arranged is the first step. Draw your idea on paper with the shapes representing different native nectar and milkweed plants (see the example below).
Share it with your parents, guardians, or adult supervisors. Then, visit www.plantmilkweed.org with your adult for more information about installing and maintaining monarch habitat. Check with your local native plant society to find native wildflowers and milkweed in your region!
IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure you always wash your hands after handling milkweed and never rub your eyes if you’ve been around milkweed. The milkweed sap can be very harmful to your eyes. Milkweed is also poisonous, so whatever you do, don’t eat it!
Sharing and Exploring
Many certification programs are available to register or certify your new habitat. Use these to share your story and display signage to draw attention to the garden's value for monarchs and other pollinators.
Once your pollinator garden is planted, you get to explore it and see who is coming to visit the flowers you planted! You can also provide valuable information about how monarchs are utilizing habitat in gardens through citizen science. Your observations will help scientists learn more about monarchs and how to protect them! You can also volunteer with local organizations that plant habitat for monarchs and other wildlife! These projects provide a fun opportunity to engage your friends, teachers, parents, or other family members in your monarch/pollinator project. The primary monarch citizen science opportunities are described here.
PlantMilkweed.org provides more information on creating habitat for monarchs, including sourcing native, locally sourced seeds and plants and selecting what is right for your area.
In addition, the MJV has compiled many valuable resources from our partners on our Downloads and Links page. These handouts provide great information and can be downloaded and distributed to various audiences.