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5 Things You Can Do to Help Monarch Butterflies Migrate

5 Things You Can Do to Help Monarch Butterflies Migrate

Monarch butterflies are on the move. In one of Nature’s most spectacular events, billions of these wonderful insects are starting to migrate from many parts of the U.S. and Canada down to the California coast and Mexico.

The entire process is amazing. First, they emerge from their cocoon (called a chrysalis). Immediately, they start feeding so they can fatten up enough to withstand their journey. Most monarchs will fly around 3,000 miles to their winter breeding grounds, and they’ll need food and shelter as they go. Ultimately, they’ll end up congregating in swaths of forests. Butterflies coming from west of the Rocky Mountains will alight in coastal California. Those coming from east of the Rockies will find their way to central Mexico. There they’ll stay, carpeting the trees, until next spring.

Though this process has been going on for eons, this past century has been very tough on monarchs, and their numbers are taking a toll. In Mexico, the area of forest monarchs occupied last winter shrank to just 1.65 acres. That’s almost 50% less than what it was the previous year, reports National Wildlife Federation, and far lower than the 45 acres monarchs filled during the mid-1990s. In California, says NWF, the number of monarchs wintering along the coast has declined by nearly 90 percent since the mid-1990s.

Why the decline in population? Monarchs are just as susceptible to climate change and extreme weather events as we all are, but they face additional threats as well. The more fields are planted with genetically-modified crops, the bigger the impact seems to be on all kinds of pollinating insects, butterflies included. Intensive farming to grow corn and soybeans for bio fuels, illegal logging, and suburban sprawl are eating up butterfly habitat, too.

Fortunately, you can make a difference. Here’s how:

1) Plant milkweed bushes that are native to your region. Milkweed acts as a host plant for monarch caterpillars and provides nectar for adult monarchs as well as other pollinators. You can figure out which milkweed is native to your area here. You can probably find milkweed plants ready to transplant into your yard or garden at your local garden center. Otherwise, order transplant “plugs” or seeds online.

2) Grow other native plants that bloom during the migration season. Butterflies need nourishment throughout their migration path. They get that nourishment from the nectar in flower blooms. Again, check with your garden center or county agricultural extension service for recommendations. Asters, goldenrods, sunflowers, and blazing stars are late bloomers that will help quench a monarch’s thirst.

3) Garden organically. Monarchs and many other insects and birds are highly susceptible to pesticides, especially “systemic” pesticides like neonicotinoids. Instead of spraying insecticides widely, can you remove them by hand? I often use my garden gloves to wipe pests off stems and leaves, and to crush larger bugs. I don’t worry about getting rid of every pest. My goal is to keep their populations under enough control that they don’t get out of hand and the flowers can still bloom. Why not give that approach a try?

4) Get your community involved. Many towns and cities have done a great job protecting their trees. Why not do the same for milkweed? Encourage your friends and neighbors to plant milkweed bushes on their own property as well as in community spaces. Set up a Facebook or Pinterest page so people can post pictures of the monarchs that visit their milkweed plants.

5) Choose GMO-free corn and soybean products. Shift your spending to oils and other processed foods that are not made from corn or soybean products grown from the genetically modified seed that seems to be harming monarch butterfly populations.

Protect Monarch Butterflies from Monsanto and GM crops by signing this Care2 petition.

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Read more: Environment, Lawns & Gardens, Natural Pest Control, Nature, Nature & Wildlife, , , ,

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Diane MacEachern

Diane MacEachern is a best-selling author, award-winning entrepreneur and mother of two with a Master of Science degree in Natural Resources and the Environment. Glamour magazine calls her an “eco hero” and she recently won the “Image of the Future Prize” from the World Communications Forum, but she’d rather tell you about the passive solar house she helped design and build way back when most people thought “green” was the color a building was painted, not how it was built. She founded because she’s passionate about inspiring consumers to shift their spending to greener products and services to protect themselves and their families while using their marketplace clout to get companies to clean up their act. Send her an email at


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11:54AM PDT on Aug 29, 2014


7:35AM PDT on Aug 29, 2014


11:46AM PDT on Aug 28, 2014

Milkweed grows wild here in Wisconsin and it is rather tall with very sweet scented blossoms. It is not a bush. It produces a long plump pod full of silky fibers with seeds on the ends.Once they crack open the fibers are picked up by birds and breezes and spread every where. I can't imagine haveing to plant them. They are kind of like dandilions, if you have one, you'll soon have 50 or more.

5:25PM PDT on Aug 27, 2014

Wouldn't it be wonderful if communities across the country joined together and made a Monarch trail?! Planting food, habitat, providing water and safe places for their young! They could hopefully in time provide and link together to make a corridor. I would love to see something like this happen throughout North America!!

4:43AM PDT on Aug 26, 2014

Thank you

4:19AM PDT on Aug 26, 2014

thanks & signed

4:30PM PDT on Aug 25, 2014

Thank you for sharing.

10:42PM PDT on Aug 21, 2014

Oh yes Monsanto will be to blame

10:40PM PDT on Aug 21, 2014

GMO has nothing to do with monarch butterflies.What next.

6:18AM PDT on Aug 19, 2014


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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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