The signs of spring are here: where I live the snow
is melting, birds are singing and green shoots are starting to peek up through
the soil, which means its time to think about helping monarchs again. In a time
when threats to imperiled species can feel overwhelming, you can do something
simple and essential to ensuring monarchs survive: plant native milkweed!
Though last year’s spring snowstorm did not kill as
many monarchs as predicted, the population still took a major hit. The
overwintering population covered about seven acres in the mountain range in
Michoacan, Mexico, where all the monarchs from the U.S. and Canada east of the
Rockies spend the winter after migrating hundreds, often thousands of miles. The
goal is a sustained population covering about 15 acres.
Milkweed is essential to the monarch migration
because it is the only food of monarch caterpillars. It makes me both sad and
furious that milkweed is disappearing because of human greed and carelessness,
falling victim to heavy use of herbicides and monocrop agriculture. Because of
these serious threats, monarchs are now a candidate for Endangered Species Act
protections. Please join me this spring in welcoming the return of the monarchs
by planting native milkweed, untreated by pesticides.
Not all milkweed is alike: it is very important
that you plant the species of milkweed native to your bioregion and that you do
not buy it from vendors who pre-treat it with pesticides. Our friends at
the Xerces Society have all the resources you need to find milkweed native to your region. If you can’t plant
this spring, you can also plant milkweed seed this fall to aid next spring’s
migration. You can even plant milkweed in a pot or planter box.
In the coming weeks monarchs will embark on their
return journey to the United States, and they’ll need food and places to lay
their eggs when they arrive. Planting milkweed is a simple action you can take
to preserve an astounding natural phenomenon and create habitat for these
Ask your friends, family, school, and community
gardens to join in this simple, yet profoundly important act. Together, we can
help save the monarch migration.
For the wild,
Wildlife Program Director
photo credit: WildEarth Guardians