Creating Waystations for Monarch Butterflies

Planting milkweed amid lavender and other crops helps the endangered species.

lavender fields in Mona, Utah
Lavender farm in Mona, Utah.

Young Living

Planted on a farm full of dense rows of blooming lavender are thick, stout plants of equally fragrant milkweed.

The milkweed is there to provide waystations for monarch butterflies at some farms and facilities operated by Young Living, an essential oils manufacturer.

Migratory monarchs (Danaus plexippus plexippus) were classified as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in July. They’re now just two steps away from being labeled as extinct on the group’s Red List of threatened species.

Tyler Wilson, senior scientist at Young Living, attended a workshop several years ago about Utah native plants when he heard Rachel Taylor speak about the monarch crisis. Taylor is the founder of Utah Friends of Monarchs and is on the board of Western Monarch Advocates.

“Throughout her presentation, I found myself listening and hatching up ideas of how Young Living could get involved,” Wilson tells Treehugger. “As stewards of the earth, Young Living firmly believes in leaving things better than what we started with. I knew the milkweed waystations would perfectly fall in line with the conservation and preservation goals Young Living is committed to achieving.” 

After living in Salt Lake City for 40 years, about a decade ago Taylor wondered why she never saw monarchs anymore. She decided to grow milkweed to see if she could get them to return to her yard. The plants blossomed and the butterflies came.

She shared milkweed with friends and gave plants to the city parks department. When the demand was so strong, she created a partnership with the Utah Department of Corrections and one of their youth centers began growing milkweed. She shares the plants and teaches about monarchs, milkweed, and butterfly migration to young people in their facilities.

“I have attended every available training and workshop on monarchs and milkweed and am as competent as I can be as a citizen scientist, but certainly not an expert in entomology,” Taylor tells Treehugger. 

She worked directly with Wilson to help grow milkweed at the company’s facilities.

“He approached me at that workshop with interest and enthusiasm. We have been working together since, trading seeds and best practices, as he began the process of growing out native milkweeds and getting them established on his farms,” Taylor says. 

She said the ultimate success was when Wilson sent her a photo of monarch caterpillars at the corporate headquarters in Lehi, Utah.

“Considering the fact that the monarch population west of the Rockies has declined 99.9% since the 1980s (down to a count of 1,914 monarchs the winter of 2020), the fact that he planted the milkweed and pollinator flowers and was able to be successful against all odds is proof that one individual can make a difference.”

Adding Native Habitat

Young Living has farms in many spots around the world. They have six facilities along the monarch migration route. Now, five have waystations on the property and they are working to expand the program to all of the North American locations where western monarchs pass through.

“We’ve seen immediate results at our farm locations where there were already a lot of nectar sources for the adult butterfly. With the added milkweed at these locations, butterflies are now laying eggs and we are seeing 2-4 times the number of caterpillars each year, depending on the location,” Wilson says.

“At the monarch waystations at our office buildings, the results were not immediate. It was about one year before we saw the results, but eventually, the monarchs found the newly added habitats.”

The company also has given away more than 300 milkweed seed packets to encourage employees to plant at home.

Taylor says it’s critical that people add native habitat back to places like yards, city parks, and commercial office spaces. She points out that by creating a monarch waystation, particularly with native plants, it also creates a pollinator habitat for so many other species.

“These habitats benefit ALL pollinators: bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and all the birds that rely on caterpillars to feed their young. We humans have interrupted the natural rhythm of life for all flora and fauna as we continue to consume more and more of our natural resources,” Taylor says. 

“We survive because of the ecosystems around us yet consume the ecosystems at the same time. If each of us were inspired to add back some of that messy, natural, and native habitat to our own backyards, we would have the opportunity to sustain the wildlife, including insects, that sustain us.” 

View Article Sources
  1. "Migratory Monarch Butterfly Now Endangered - IUCN Red List." International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2022.

  2. Rachel Taylor, founder of Utah Friends of Monarchs and board member of Western Monarch Advocates

  3. Tyler Wilson, senior scientist at Young Living