September 23, 2019

Monarch Butterfly: How You Can Help Save This Struggling Species.

The Monarch Butterfly. 

It's worth a look back at this post, originally published 2 years ago on August 25, 2017 ...

A stunning diminutive creature weighing a 0.0026 ounce or less, yet with the ability to migrate an amazing 3,000 miles to winter living areas in Mexico and California, including my San Francisco Bay Area. 

The Monarch Butterfly is in serious trouble, with loss of habitat, and loss of essential milkweed and other nectar plants Monarchs rely on for food sources.  The food source loss is greatly impacted by big agriculture's reliance on herbicides (weed killers) such as Roundup, which have wiped out vast areas of milkweed and nectar plant food sources.

But you can help.

Plant a Pollinator-Friendly Garden

The garden does not have to be large; you can help even if you only have room for a few pots on your deck.  Plant a variety of butterfly and bee-friendly plants that will provide food and nectar throughout yearly growing seasons.

Also, don’t be in a rush to dead head your flowers and herbs.  Birds rely on flower and herb seeds for food.  Also, some annual and perennial flowering plants easily reseed, helping create a naturalized garden effect and a new supply of free plants.  And what's not to love about free gardening!

A few of my gardens' pollinator-friendly flowers.

And Don’t Forget to Plant Milkweed

One must-have plant for your garden:  Milkweed.
 In the butterfly stage of life, the Monarch Butterfly obtains food (nectar) from a variety of flowering plants.  However, the Monarch lays its eggs on milkweed plants.   In fact, as explained in this Natural Geographic article
“Monarch butterflies begin life as eggs and hatch as larvae that eat their eggshells and, subsequently, the milkweed plants on which they were placed. (Monarchs are dependent on milkweed plants, which larvae eat nearly exclusively.)”
Many types of milkweed plants exist.  When possible, look for varieties native to your area.  Milkweed can be started with either seeds or plants obtained from your local garden center.

Here is a Monarch Butterfly this month checking out some of my gardens’ milkweed plants.  Beautiful, huh?

Lastly, when planning and taking care of your garden, garden organically to the extent possible.  Do not use pesticides (bug killers) or herbicides (weed killers) in your gardens.  Both can harm the Monarch Butterflies (and other pollinators) as well as their plant-based food sources.  You can read more about pollinator-friendly gardening at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.

Happy gardening, everyone, and thank you for helping the Monarch Butterfly and other pollinators! 

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