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Helping the Monarch Butterfly

Posted by Naomi Schoenfeld on


It's an iconic image -- one of the few butterflies even the most citified of us can identify on sight:

Most of us first met the monarch butterfly when we were small children. They're great classroom pets, obligingly demonstrating egg-to-caterpillar-to-cocoon-to-wings for generations of American kindergarten and first grade students.

But the monarch butterfly is in serious trouble. With its migratory route nearly completely paved over by farmland -- single-crop fields treated with herbicides that kill all but one desired plant type -- the numbers of monarch butterflies have plummeted in recent years to less than a tenth their original numbers, and their migration is near collapse. There's not much you and I can do about farmland -- and chances are, one way or another, the era of the great butterfly migration is simply over. But we can help save the species.

Small pockets of the Monarch's native plants, scattered throughout yards, gardens, and parks across the migration route, should make it possible for some -- not as many, but some -- butterflies to continue to make the trip successfully. Enter, the monarch butterfly waystation. The idea is simple. Pick a corner of your yard -- or more space, if you're so inclined -- and fill it with plants friendly to the monarch's life cycle. Many of these plants are beautiful and useful in their own right (e.g., echinacea, zinnias). Others, such as milkweeds and purple horsemint, may be new to you, but together, they make quite a display. If you're not sure how to pick the right plants, you can get a seed kit of assorted plant varieties right in the mail. Ours came today -- two little boxes of butterfly happiness just waiting to be planted.

Once your waystation is up and growing, register its location, and you'll receive a spiffy sign you can post on your fence to make all your neighbors jealous -- or, more to the point, encourage them to set up waystations of their own.

What are you waiting for? Click on over to Monarch Watch and get your waystation started today.



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