by guest blogger Claudia Allen, avid amateur gardener
Since 1990, more than 90 percent of monarch butterflies have disappeared.
The good news: you can help.
With their distinctive orange, black, and white markings, monarchs are the one butterfly most of us can identify. So familiar, in fact, that we might take them for granted. But more than 970,000,000 monarchs have vanished in the last 25 years due to loss of habitat from urban development, agriculture, pesticide use, and illegal logging in their winter climes. That’s more than 90 percent of their population, a stunning blow to their prospects for survival as a species.
Worse, climate change may make life even harder for the monarchs: Monarchs can survive below-freezing winter temperatures. But with wetter, colder winters predicted, monarchs risk getting wet and freezing to death. Moreover, monarchs’ migratory paths are expected to lengthen, threatening their survival of the long journey to and from their winter roost.
It’s easy to help! Every fall, milkweed seeds pour from their pods and float on the air, buoyed by silky threads. Wherever there is milkweed, there are monarchs, for it is the only plant where they lay their eggs and milkweed is the monarch caterpillars’ only food source.
Milkweed grows throughout the U.S.—and, happily, planting a bit of milkweed in your garden is as easy as planting your summer zinnia seeds!
Many milkweed species are known to be used by monarchs—so pick your favorite ones to plant! (Click here for a handy guide showing which species of Milkweed are native to your area.)
There are even resources for free seeds (if you are unable to make a donation):
You can also purchase milkweed seeds. Here a few seed vendors:
And next fall, be on the lookout for milkweed pods so that you can grab a handful of seeds to bring home to later plant in your home gardens.
Finally, here is a guide to creating your very own butterfly haven:
Sometimes big things can be accomplished in small steps. And sometimes a big problem has a simple solution we can find right in our own back yard. If each of us plants a little milkweed, together we can boost the monarchs’ numbers and hopefully help to ensure their survival.
So get your seeds! Plant some milkweed! Then relax and enjoy the show.
Claudia Allen is an avid amateur gardener and member of the Rodale Garden Club living in Emmaus, PA.