How Planting MIlkweed Can Help Save The Monarch butterfly

Category: Science Written by Beth Owens 683 2

Scientists say Canadians can make subtle changes to help save the monarch butterfly, after the species’ population declined by 90 per cent in the last 20 years.

A combination of deforestation and storms in Mexico, where the butterflies overwinter, as well as herbicide use in Canada and the U.S., which serves as the species’ breeding grounds, has wreaked havoc on the monarch’s population.

University of Ottawa biology professor Jeremy Kerr says Canada must act immediately to prevent the remaining monarch population from disappearing, and Canadians can help.

“It’s a lot easier to save things before they go away, than it is to recover them after they’ve disappeared,” said Kerr.

Kerr is a co-investigator on the citizen science project Mission Monarch, which looks at whether the availability of the milkweed plant is affecting the monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterflies need milkweed to lay their eggs, and their caterpillars only eat milkweed plants. But the plant is being wiped out throughout North America, where it’s often considered a weed.

Mission Monarch asks participants to visit fields where milkweed  is found over the summer to take note of the number of caterpillars and monarch eggs on the plants. The findings are then submitted on the Mission Monarch website.

Canadians are also being encouraged to leave milkweed in their gardens, and to plant more of it if possible.

“(Monarch butterflies) make our world a little bit more beautiful, and losing that species as part of our day-to-day experience of our own native landscapes seems to me to be a tragedy that we do not need to have,” Kerr said.

The information collected on the Mission Monarch website will help scientists and policymakers better protect those areas.


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2 thoughts on “How Planting MIlkweed Can Help Save The Monarch butterfly

  1. Paulcherubini

    The goal of conservationists to rebuild the eastern monarch migratory overwintering population to its historic average of 6.07 hectares is not realistic nor necessary. Not realistic because it would require the hiring of tens of thousands of workers to successfully re-establshing around 2-3 billion new milkweed stems in wildscape habitat situations around the central and eastern USA and southern Canada. Not necessary because even if there was an 80% storm related mortality event at the overwintering sites in Mexico during an ultra low population year like 2013 (only 33 million butterflies that year) that would still leave 6.6 million surviving overwintered migrants to repopulate the USA in the early Spring. We know that a population of 100,000 – 200,000 surviving overwintered migrants in California are sufficient to repopulate the western USA, so 6,600,000 surviving overwintered migrants in Mexico should be more than sufficient to repopulate the eastern and central USA.

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