Last night I took a little venture to Maysville, Kentucky to attend the 8th Annual Farm & Family Night at Maysville Community and Technical College. While I was there, I attended the session Saving the Monarch Butterfly.
According to what I learned, the monarchs that live east of the Rocky Mountains are now in Texas. They are on their yearly journey north from Mexico. Those that live west of the Rocky Mountains winter in California and spend their summers in the Northwest states.
Part of what makes monarch migration so wondrous is the fact that monarchs are the only insect to migrate a distance of 2,500 miles. During migration monarch butterflies can fly up to 300-500 miles a day. During their migration north monarchs will go through about 4 generations. Those monarchs that fly south in the fall, however, can journey the whole distance living up to 9 months.
The purpose of the session was to discuss why monarchs are at risk and what can be done to help them.
Currently the monarch population is 4% of what it was in the 1970’s. The biggest factor leading to their decline is loss of milkweed. Other contributing factors to the decline of monarch populations are weather, use of insecticides & herbicides, and habitat loss.
Some things we can do in Ohio to help the butterflies as we await their arrival this year is to learn about their habitat. We can plant milkweed and other pollinator plants that monarchs need. In addition we can learn about plants that are native to our yard that butterflies enjoy and keep them in place when possible, rather than removing them.
Being that it is almost spring (12 more days, but who’s counting?), now is a great time to think about monarch butterflies that are migrating our way. When planning your garden try to include some nectar plants. These can be annuals, biennials, and/or perennials. Here are just a few examples: Shasta Daisy, Cosmos, French Marigolds, Lantana, Verbena, Zinnia, Black Eyed Susan, Hollyhock, Phlox, New England Aster, and Purple Coneflower. Milkweed, Goldenrod, and Ironweed are often plants that we might consider undesirable, but butterflies like them.
If possible, know your plant source. When purchasing plants ask what type of greenhouse they came from. Ideally, buy plants raised in a chemical free greenhouse. Often times you can find someone who has perennials who is willing to split off part of their plant that you could start in your yard.
Choose a sunny location for your plants and consider including windbreaks such as a fence or shrub. If you have limited space many of these plants do well in pots or containers. Bird baths or water containers should be shallow with some object which will allow for butterflies to perch. Items such as floating corks can be placed in deeper water to provide a perch.
Do you plant flowers in your gardens for butterflies? What are your favorites?
Learn more about Protecting Monarchs and Monach Watch .
Feature photo by Chris Bending