One of the community projects my garden club is committed to is the development of a certified Monarch butterfly waystation at Whitehaven, our local tourist welcome center. Biennially we have a fundraising plant sale/luncheon/garden tour to fund these endeavors; it took place earlier in the week.
It's always a ton of work, offset by the fun we have with each other and with the community that so generously supports us. This year we also offered a little Monarch education....
along with a tableful of aesclepias tuberosa (milkweed--the host plants for the Monarch)....and assorted nectar plants. My 'partner in crime' and I were beyond tickled to see the butterfly table plants sell out first. (Strong-arming had nothing to do with it. Promise.)
The Monarchs really are one of the most fascinating insects in the whole insect kingdom.
'Only monarchs born in late summer or early fall make the migration, and they make only one round trip. By the time next year's winter migration begins, several summer generations will have lived and died and it will be last year's migrators' great grandchildren that make the trip. Yet somehow these new generations know the way, and follow the same routes their ancestors took—sometimes even returning to the same tree.' ( from the nat'l geographic monarch site)
This migration can be up to 3,000 miles. They are the size of a teacup, and weigh .0095 ounces. How do they do it?
But more importantly, how can you help them do it?
In 2014, a 20-year comparison study was conducted that showed the Monarch population west of the Rockies has dropped more than 50% since 1997, while the numbers of Monarch butterflies east of the Rockies has dropped more than 90% since 1995. This decline in numbers is due to loss of overwintering habitats, use of pesticides which has wiped out most of their migratory habitats, and climate change.
So, the answer to how you can help is pretty easy. If you plant just one plant this year....in your pesticide-free garden (!!)...please make it a milk weed plant. Better yet, add some nectar plants, a little source of water, a place for the butterflies to 'sun' and rest, and you will be rewarded with a variety of butterflies, and most likely some 'bonus' hummingbirds.
(I took this photo a few years ago on the Mall in Washington DC. My goal is to take a similar one in my own backyard.)