You Can Help Stop the Monarch Butterfly Massacre by ... Gardening (Plant Milkweed!)

CC BY-SA 3.0. Wikimedia

Nearly a billion monarch butterflies have vanished in the past 25 years

One of the most iconic North-American species is in big trouble. The monarch butterfly has, according to the most recent estimates, lost over 90% of its population since the 1990s. That's around 970 million butterflies gone - poof - since 1990, and if nothing is done, the rest could follow suit.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is spearheading a campaign in partnership with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to try to reverse this dramatic decline. But this isn't just about the butterflies; their sad state is just a symptom of larger issues that also affect other pollinators, such as habitat loss, the use of pesticides and herbicides, etc.

The USFWS and its partners will spend $2 million to grow milkweed and other butterfly-friendly plants along the main migration routes from Minnesota to Mexico.

Monarch Butterflies

Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

This Spring, do your part, even if just in your backyard

The beauty is that you can help. It's as easy as gardening. The reason is that monarchs cannot survive without milkweed; their caterpillars only eat milkweed plants (Asclepias spp.), and monarch butterflies need milkweed to lay their eggs. With shifting land management practices, we have lost much milkweed from the landscape.

That's where you come in. You can plant carefully selected native milkweed and create a monarch butterfly haven in your backyard.

You can find out all that you need to know in these guides:

First check out: Create Habitat for Monarchs and the Gardening for Monarchs brochure.

Here is a handy two-page guide that helps you find which milkweed is native to your area, and another one that helps you avoid non-native species.

Milkweed species

FWS/Public Domain

Here are more tips to help out pollinators, and more tips for monarchs specifically.

Here's is the migration path that monarch butterflies follow:

Monarch butterfly migration map

USFWS/Public Domain

For your viewing pleasure, here's a monarch emerging from its chrysalis:

Beautiful, isn't it?

Monarch Butterflies

Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

Here's a short video on the official announcement from the Fish & Wildlife service:

Via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Guardian