7 Ways You Can Help Save Monarch Butterflies From Extinction
Frequent flyers on this blog are well schooled on the plight of the beautiful monarch butterfly. Over the last couple decades the population has declined by over 90% leaving the monarch in imminent danger of extinction. Once a billion butterflies strong, there are now only about 50 million and the need to conserve their habitat is urgent. The good news is that, with your help and a little cooperation from Mother Nature, it may not be too late. Here are 7 things you can do to help the monarch make an epic comeback in 2016-2017:
1. Leave Fields, Meadows & Medians Un-Mowed Until October-November
Milkweed is the monarch's elixir of life and it's the only plant monarch caterpillars can survive on. There are over 100 species of milkweed in North America, often growing wild along roadsides, cornfields, in medians, meadows and backyards. This milkweed provides habitat for monarchs and other pollinators as well as nesting birds, deer & their fawns and many other types of wildlife. Because milkweed has been nearly wiped out by the pervasive commercial use of herbicides like glyphosphate (aka Round Up), all these wildlife species are now relying on you and me to plant and care for their milkweed habitat.
If you live in a rural area like Vermont you may well have milkweed on your property. Can you avoid mowing and let your fields and meadows grow this year? Monarchs need your milkweed particularly now in August as the last generation, the Super Monarchs are still hungry caterpillars. Their one & only source of nourishment is milkweed which will enable their metamorphosis into butterflies that will fly 3000 miles to over-winter in Mexico.
If you're not a land owner, you can still help out by contacting your local road commissioner and asking if there is mowing that can be delayed until October or November when the monarchs are leaving for their journey south to over-winter in Mexico.
In his article, To Protect Monarchs, Stop Needless Mowing, Richard Fetterly notes that often road crews mow unnecessarily in August, thereby destroying milkweed and killing all life stages of the monarch (eggs, caterpillars, pupa & butterfly). Instead of being prime habitat and a corridor for migration, the roadside becomes a death trap. Don't let it happen in Vermont.
2. Plant Milkweed and Nectar Plants
If you plant it, they will come. Journey North gathers data from people all over the North American continent who report sightings of monarch butterflies. Chances are some have but they will need nectar plants for food and milkweed on which to lay their eggs. Help them out by following these butterfly gardening tips from Monarch Watch. If you live near us at Vermont Woods Studios, stop by and pick up free milkweed seedlings! We can also show you some (non-GMO) nectar plants including clover, cosmos, echinacea, salvia, butterfly bush, vinca, ajuga, golden rod, Zinnias, Queen Ann's lace & daisies that our pollinators seem to love.
Monarchs over-wintering in Michoacan, Mexico, after completing their epic 3000 mile migration. Photo by Sue Sill, PhD, Director at ForestsForMonarchs.com
3. Attend One of Our Save the Monarchs Events
Starting on August 25th, we will be touring the Northeast with Mexican Monarch expert, Jose Luis Alvarez in an effort to raise awareness about the monarch's plight and increase monarch habitat both here in the USA and in Mexico. Our Save the Monarchs tour will visit Vermont Woods Studios Sustainable Furniture Store, Harvard, Yale, The Boston Museum of Science, the Mass Horticultural Society, Echo Science Center in Burlington, VT, Audubon Greenwich and the Philly Zoo. We've invited Canadian entrepreneur, Francois Simard to join us too--to tell you about his innovative work using milkweed fibers in new exciting products (see below).
4. Sell Your Milkweed for Cash
Did you know milkweed is a commercial crop? It's often called American silk. Francois Simard of Encore 3, a division of Protec-Style is pioneering the use of milkweed fibers in a broad range of materials including flotation devices, insulating fabric and oil spill clean-up kits.
5. Pledge Not To Mow Today
Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, in your local newspaper, with your road commissioner & with businesses that control land which may be home to wild milkweed. Of all the strategies to conserve pollinators, delaying mowing is neither expensive nor time consuming. Quite the opposite: less mowing saves time and money! So share this post generously... after all, how many times will you have an opportunity to help save a species from extinction?
6. Support Forests for Monarchs
My friend Jose Luis Alvarez founded Forests for Monarchs a 501c3 non-profit corporation, almost 20 years ago as a way to conserve the butterfly's winter forest habitat in Michoacan, Mexico. Since then he has planted millions of trees in a a reforestation effort to save the monarch. For every dollar donated to Forests for Monarchs, Jose Luis and his community plant 2 trees in the butterfly's forest habitat.
7. Join the Online Community of Monarch Fans & Help Spread the Love
Facebook & Twitter are abuzz with communities of monarch lovers. Find one near you or join our Vermont Woods Studios Monarch Butterfly Facebook Group. Just sharing the conversation with your family and friends will help to keep the butterflies in the spotlight where people-power and resources can find them.