What Can We Do to Help the Monarch Butterfly Population?

The Monarch Butterfly - Beauty to Behold

Monarch Butterfly on Sunflower
Monarch Butterfly on Sunflower | Source

What We Can Do To Help

The monarch butterfly is truly one of the most well know and beautiful of the butterfly world. However, their numbers are declining at an alarming rate. There are two simple and easy ways that we can help stop their decline in numbers, limit our use of deadly pesticides and plant milkweed. Let me explain how this is going to help our beautiful monarch butterflies from possibly becoming extinct someday.

Monarch Butterfly Range

Range map of the monarch butterfly.
Range map of the monarch butterfly. | Source

Where Can The Monarch Butterfly be Found?

The monarch butterfly can be found in many different parts of the world including North, South and Central America, Australia, India, and Western Europe as well as some Pacific Islands. They are easily recognizable with their brightly colored orange wings with black veins and the white spots framing their wings and on their body.

Migrating Monarch Butterflies

Butterflies in Pacific Grove, California during winter migration.
Butterflies in Pacific Grove, California during winter migration. | Source

Monarch Butterfly Migration

There are two types of monarch butterflies, the Eastern monarch and the Western monarch. As many people already know, the Monarch butterfly makes an amazing journey each fall. The Eastern monarch will fly to Southern California for the winter, while the Western monarch will fly on to Central Mexico. Some will fly over 2,000 miles to reach their destination.

There are two well known monarch butterfly sanctuaries. One is in Pacific Grove, California and one in Michoacan, Mexico. By closely watching the progress of the migrations to these areas, scientists are discovering that the population of Monarch butterflies is decreasing drastically. There has been a 90% decline in their numbers of the past 20 years.

Genetically Engineered Crops Are One Problem

Crop dusting with herbicides.
Crop dusting with herbicides. | Source

Pesticides are a Problem

A census taken at the winter habitat in Mexico found that there were only approximately 50 million butterflies. Now I know that sounds like a lot, however their population was once estimated at 1 billion! They believe that the reason behind the decline is the use of genetically modified corn in the Midwestern parts of the US. This corn has led to a greater use of herbicides which kills the milkweed plants along with many other butterfly friendly plants.

There are even more genetically-engineered crops in the works. They are not only genetically engineered to resist one herbicide, but up to four difference classes of herbicides. Some of these herbicides are known for causing a lot of collateral damage to other vegetation, such as milkweed.

Narrow Margined Fields

Herbicides are killing everything in the margins.
Herbicides are killing everything in the margins. | Source

Narrow Field Margins Could be Another Problem

Another problem is the areas where the farmers grow their crops. The farmers are narrowing their field margins, the area not planted between their crops and the side of the road. These areas are not only being narrowed, but are being affected by the herbicides being put on the crops. Where you used to be able to find milkweed in the marginal areas, there is nothing there but grass now.

Milkweed and Monarch Caterpillar

Monarch caterpillar eating leaves of milkweed plant.
Monarch caterpillar eating leaves of milkweed plant. | Source

Milkweed is the Host for the Monarch Caterpillars

The milkweed plant is the host for the monarch’s caterpillars. At the end of winter, the monarch butterflies will mate. The male will perish, but the female will try to make her way back north, laying her eggs only on milkweed plants along the way. Once the caterpillars emerge from the eggs, they will eat the leaves. This is the only food source for the monarch caterpillars.

The Obama Administration Steps In to Help

The Obama administration along with different conservation groups have launched a plan to stop the decline of these beautiful butterflies. The US Fish and Wildlife Service will spend approximately 2 million dollars to help replenish the milkweed and other butterfly friendly plants throughout the main migration path. These plants will be planted from Minnesota all the way to Mexico to try to regain the habitat for the Monarchs. The USFW is also planning on restoring approximately 200,000 acre of their habitat along the spring breeding grounds in Texas and Oklahoma as well as the summer breeding areas from Austin, Texas to St. Paul, Minnesota.

Save the Monarch Butterflies - YouTube

A Simple Way to Help

With the number of Monarch butterflies falling so drastically over the past few years, it is going to take a lot of work for them to rebound. There is one simple thing that we all can do to help, plant milkweed. Many people plant milkweed in the flower gardens to attract these beautiful butterflies. Now, not only will you be attracting the monarch butterflies to your gardens, but you will be helping them replenish their numbers as well.

Milkweed Plant

Source

Planting Milkweed

Milkweed normally grow as wildflowers in fields and along road sides in Eastern and Central North America in zones 3 through 9. They grow best in full sun and well-drained soil. They grow well in poor soil and are quite drought tolerant but will require good watering to get them started. Once started, the milkweed plants will spread both by seeds and rhizomes and will form colonies.

If you wish to contain them, you may want to remove the seed pods before they open. You can plants the seed pods in another location in your yard or maybe even drop them by the side of road. The leaves of the milkweed plant are toxic so take care if you have small children.

Would You Be Willing To Help?

Would you be willing to plant milkweed to help the monarch butterfly population?

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44 comments

sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 6 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello, Audrey. I have noticed more and more milkweed growing wild on our place this year. It has been raining so much, we can't keep our fields mowed and I think that is why I a seeing more of it. I have now designated some areas for hubby to NOT mow and hopefully I will see more Monarchs this year!


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 6 months ago from California

I saw a monarch the other day and had not seen one in a long time--I don't have milkweed yet, but am planning on planting some in the back yard


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 13 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Good morning, Patricia! Wouldn't it be wonderful to see a "shower" of Monarchs! How lucky she was! I have only seen a couple this year and that really makes me sad. I had planted some milkweed, but it didn't do very well this year. (I think I planted it too late.) It should come back next year and hopefully will bring more Monarchs to my yard. Thanks your stopping by and all your support, my friend! :)


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 14 months ago from sunny Florida

Hi Sheila I believe I read this sometime back ....adore adore butterflies as you know from my hub.

This past weekend my niece and her husband were traveling to Mexico when we got a call from her (I am in Texas visiting my sister)....she said she was in a 'shower' of Monarchs!!! How cool is that. Of course she was unable to photograph them as they were traveling at a high rate of speed on the way to pick up a car that they would work on and flip.

Lovely lovely important message....the world is a more beautiful place with such wondrous creatures in it for sure.

Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

g+ tweeted shared pinned


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 18 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Thelma! I started looking for milkweed plants on our place this spring. We actually have a lot of them growing wild here. I have been seeing a few Monarchs, but not as many in past years.


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 18 months ago from Germany

I have seen Monarch butterflies in different sizes in my Philippines garden. I hope I can find Milkweeds there in my home country so I can plant them in my garden. Thanks for sharing this useful informations Sheila. Happy weekend!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 20 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Thank you, Huntgoddess! I will check out the site right away. Yes, butterflies need water too. I will find them drinking from my bird baths frequently in the summer. Thank you for stopping by!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 20 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Thank you so much, Patricia! I'm so happy to hear that you have more monarchs visiting now than in the past. It would be a horrible shame for them to disappear. Thank you for all your support and kindness!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 20 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

You are welcome, travmaj! Thank you for stopping by and I appreciate your kind comment. A butterfly garden would be beautiful and beneficial to more than just the monarch.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 20 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

You are very welcome, Kitty! The herbicides are killing off many beneficial plants which is causing a ripple affect. We need to stop using such strong herbicides and pesticides if we want to save many of our beautiful plants and insects. Thank you for planting milkweed this year, I know it will help!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 20 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Great! Thank you for the information. I will be checking that out right away. Planting season is here!


Huntgoddess profile image

Huntgoddess 21 months ago from Midwest U.S.A.

There are free or almost free seeds available on the I'net, at that website I quote, above. I think they will send about a hundred seeds for a dollar, or something?

Just do a quick search regarding Monarch, or milkweed, or free seeds??


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 21 months ago from the Ether

I didn't realize the monarchs are endangered...which is so sad! But it makes sense, as these herbicides are killing off many of the insects we love and need for our eco-system. I will try to plant some milkweed in my yard/garden this coming year. Hopefully it will help a little. Thanks for sharing!


travmaj profile image

travmaj 21 months ago from australia

I really haven't seen many butterflies this summer, certainly not the Monarch - will have to check re my particular area. I love the sound of a butterfly garden, will make sure I plant some Milkweed and anything else that may be helpful to these beautiful creatures - thank you for raising this awareness -


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 21 months ago from sunny Florida

The disappearance of this gorgeous butterfly has been of interest to me since I first heard of it. Last summer I had more of them than I had had in a number of years as I made certain to provide a home for them to come to.

thank you so much for sharing this, Sheila.

We want such an amazing creature to remain on our planet for generations and generations to come.

Voted up +++ and shared g+ and pinned


Huntgoddess profile image

Huntgoddess 21 months ago from Midwest U.S.A.

Go to live monarch dot com. Also, don't forget the water.

Monarchs need water, as well, I've read.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 21 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

In the last year or two, I have noticed that I have not seem as many as I used to. I hope that we can help stop their decline and I will start seeing more of them again. I'm glad to hear that the B&B is planting milkweed, every little bit helps. Thank you for stopping by and I hope you have a wonderful day!


Huntgoddess profile image

Huntgoddess 21 months ago from Midwest U.S.A.

I remember the monarchs that were everywhere back when I was a little girl, in the '50's. I love them so much. It is very sad. I miss them.

Thanks for the information. My son lives across the street from a B&B. They planted milkweeds in their glorious yard!

Up, +++


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 21 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

It is poetryman. Plus it will add some beauty to your yard! Thank you for stopping in!


poetryman6969 profile image

poetryman6969 21 months ago

Growing milkweed seems a simple, painless way to help.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 21 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

You are very welcome, Alicia! Thank you for stopping by and your very kind comment!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 21 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

Thank you for this interesting hub and for raising awareness about a very important topic. The first photo in your hub is wonderful!


tsadjatko profile image

tsadjatko 21 months ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

Well we can start by calling them what they are, Islamic terrorists...?......

whooops, wrong hub page, sorry (occasionally like an old car, I get stuck in one gear).

But I did read your hub page and I think it is wonderful too. And I have some solutions: There are so many "researchers" on the government dole why not genetically engineer milkweed to contain THC. That is not as wild as some of the other government financed pork research projects and it could be sold as "milk" or "weed".

Did you know during World War II, the regular material used to stuff life jackets was in short supply, so milkweed floss was called for as a substitute—it is about six times more buoyant than cork!

Over the years, researchers have investigated growing milkweed for papermaking, textiles, and lubricants, and as a substitute for fossil fuels and rubber. Although these experiments were found economically unfeasible at the time, perhaps they should be revisited, given the rising costs of fuel and other materials. In current research, a chemical extracted from the seed is being tested as a pesticide for nematodes.

I'd plant as much milkweed as possible, might be worth something one day and in the mean time everyone knows Butter (fly) comes from Milk (weed). :-) Beautiful hub page!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 21 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Thank you, Bill! Yes, we humans have almost done it again! Pushing species to the brink of extinction seems to be a past time of ours! thank You for stopping by, I appreciate your comment and you helping the monarchs too!


bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 21 months ago from Massachusetts

Hi Sheila. I will definitely do my part and plant some milkweed, when spring arrives. I knew the Monarch was threatened but I did not know that it was to this extent. Mankind created this mess so now we need to heed the call to save this amazing creature of nature. Great job Sheila.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 21 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Thank you, Glimmer Twin Fan! I'm glad to hear that you will be planting some milkweed too. Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful day!


Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 21 months ago

I am definitely planting milkweed this year. I've been reading a lot about this and think it's important to do our part. Interesting hub.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 21 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

I'm glad you appreciated my information. I would really hate to see these beautiful butterflies disappear! Thank you for stopping by!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 21 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Mary! What a wonderful hobby to have! I will look for your hub, I know I would enjoy reading it. I think genetically engineered crops, herbicides and pesticides will probably be the death of us all if it isn't stopped. Thank you for stopping by!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 21 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Thank you so much Faith Reaper! I am going to plant milkweed in several different places here at our place. I can't wait to see if I get more butterflies this year!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 21 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Thank you pstraubie48 and you are very welcome! I plan on planting a lot of milkweed around the house this spring. I can't wait to see if I get more monarchs this year than last.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 21 months ago from southern USA

I am going to plant some milkweed. I remember reading Mary's hub about it a while back. They are such lovely creatures. My grands would love a butterfly garden. I am going to look into helping the Monarch Butterfly.

Up ++++ tweeting and pinning


mary615 profile image

mary615 21 months ago from Florida

One of my hobbies is furnishing the Monarchs Milkweed to eat, then watching them lay their eggs and hatch out! I wrote a Hub about how I do that. I took photos as they matured.

I'm glad the Milkweed plants will be preserved as you mentioned, but unless the practice of spraying with insecticides is stopped, these plants will be killed off soon. I encourage everyone to plant Milkweed in their yards.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 21 months ago

I appreciate the information. I love these butterflies....


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 21 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

You are welcome, Bill! I think that is so cool that you used to raise them in your science class. Children need to learn about nature and how to respect it and take care of it!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 21 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

What a wonderful garden you must have! Being able to watch the butterflies as they actually become butterflies, must be fascinating! Thank you for stopping by and your kind comment!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 21 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Thank you, Karine! Monarch butterflies are so beautiful, it would be a horrible shame if they disappeared. It is so easy to plant milkweed to help sustain them. I hope lots of people feel the same as you, thank you!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 21 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

That's awesom, Shauna! We have some milkweed that grown wild in the fields on our place, but I think I will plant some in one of my flower beds too. I have noticed that over the past couple of years I have not seen as many monarchs as I have in the past.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas

These lovely creatures of nature are part of the beauty of this earth. I'm glad you are helping to raise awareness of their needs and the ways in which we can help. That first photo is stunningly beautiful.


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 21 months ago from sunny Florida

You have written such an impotant article. These magnificent creatures have been on the decline for too long ....planting milkweed is something I can do!!! THank you for sharing this. Angels are on the way to you. PS. Voted up and shared


billybuc profile image

billybuc 21 months ago from Olympia, WA

We used to raise them in our science classes when I taught...we planted a butterfly garden...and we have one now at our home. This is important...and it is so easy to help...thanks for raising awareness.


kj force profile image

kj force 21 months ago from Florida

My G-C and I have a" weed" garden, all native plants to Florida.

Milkweed and flowering plants are the mainstay, we also use fruity Gatorade to attract the Butterflies. The caterpillars are provided with covered wire boxes in which they can go through the Pupa stage...we can view the whole process...and get an idea on how many release each season...It has been an experience we enjoy, we also purchase various other caterpillars from Lucas Nursery Butterfly encounter..Our garden has been home to many species...Thank you for sharing ... very informative and educational article... " Butterfly Spirit is to be Free "


Karine Gordineer profile image

Karine Gordineer 21 months ago from Upstate New York

This is a very important Hub and an issue that is near and dear to my heart. I hope that everyone will read it and take action which is really so simple to do!


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 21 months ago from Central Florida

Sheila, I'm proud to say I'm already doing my part and so is my neighbor. We both have milkweed in our gardens. There's not a day that goes by that I don't see at least one of these beautiful creatures fluttering about in my yard.

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