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I love butterflies! I studied butterfly ecology for my dissertation and eagerly await every spring when these insects reappear in my garden. One of the most popular butterfly species is the monarch (Danaus plexippus). I’ve written posts about why monarch butterflies are cooler than British monarchs and other fun facts about monarch. That’s why the news about the monarch butterflies, reported in the 1/30/14 issue of the Washington Post, really got my attention. Joshua Partlow’s article reported that monarch butterflies covered only 1.6 acres of forest in their wintering grounds in central Mexico, down from a 20 year high of 45 acres. Threats to the monarch occur in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico – herbicide use in the agricultural fields of the U.S. and Canada, and illegal logging in Mexico. Although monarchs rebounded from a similar crash in the 1930s, scientists are very concerned about the population of monarchs known for their 5 generation migration through North America. Karen Oberhauser, a monarch researcher at the University of Minnesota was quoted in the article as saying, “I am deeply saddened by the terrible news….To preserve the monarch migration, we need a groundswell of conservation.” Well greenmomsters, I know a call to action when I hear one. Here are some actions you can take today to help save monarchs in our area:
- Create a Monarch Waystation! Plant LOTS of milkweed and nectar plants in your yard. It’ll provide habitat where female monarchs can lay eggs.
- Try tagging monarchs! It’s a fun way to learn more about the monarchs and their migration. Here are some pictures from a tagging event at Sky Meadows State Park last fall.
- Read about the migration! Four Wings and a Prayer, by Sue Halpern is a great book about the migration.
- Support Monarch Watch! This organization helps to educate the public, support research, and protect the habitat of monarch butterflies.
- Support the Xerces Society, which has programs to protect western overwintering sites and restore breeding sites in the U.S.
- Support the World Wildlife Fund in their efforts to preserve overwintering grounds in Mexico through community-based conservation.
- Write to the President and your congressional representatives to tell them about your concern for monarchs! This week’s news is great, but we need even more formal protections for this beautiful and fascinating species.