This was a very good year for Monarch Butterfly awareness. It seemed you could not read a newspaper or watch local and national news without hearing at least one segment on the declining Monarch populations. In addition many government and non governmental organizations provided funding to increase habitat restoration for Monarchs and other pollinators. Indeed the Monarch Butterfly has become the “flagship species” for pollinator awareness. Monarch Watch reported that over 2000 new certified Monarch Waystations were created in 2015 for a grand total of 11,637 as of August.
Sadly the news from the overwintering areas in Mexico last year was still grim. Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) released the following graph showing the continued low population after the 2014/2015 winter counts had been completed. (1.13 hectares compared to .67 hectares which is still the second lowest population ever recorded).
Karen Oberhauser, professor and director of graduate studies, conservation biology at the University of Minnesota stated in a radio interview
“…What is happening to monarchs is also happening to many other uncounted organisms – organisms whose loss would be equally tragic. We know about monarchs because they gather in discrete locations every winter, and because thousands of volunteers count them as part of over a dozen different monarch and butterfly citizen science programs. Monarchs can serve as both indicators of what is happening to many other insects, and as an impetus to save the habitat that they and these uncounted insects require.
Fortunately, monarchs can utilize a diversity of breeding and migratory habitat types, provided that milkweed and nectar plants are present, and the main thrust of conservation efforts in the U.S. is to replace as much of the habitat that was lost in the past ten years as possible. Monarch conservation is also a priority of many private citizens in the US, and the Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) and its member organizations provide tools that will help them promote monarchs’ long-term survival. Monarch conservation is also a priority of many private citizens in the US, and the MJV and its member organizations provide tools that will help them promote monarchs’ long-term survival.
Four concrete things that people can do include: Plant locally sourced, native milkweed and nectar sources wherever possible. Educate others and advocate for monarch conservation. People can register their monarch habitats as monarch Waystations and add them to other success stories on the Monarch Joint Venture website. They can talk to friends and neighbors about monarchs, ask local or county land managers to avoid mowing milkweed when monarch eggs and caterpillars might be present, and advocate to limit insecticide spraying at the local, state or national level. Get involved in a monarch citizen science program and contribute data that will help us manage monarchs more effectively. Donate money to organizations that support monarch, pollinator, and land conservation.”
We can still make a difference! Many committed and passionate individuals and organizations across North America are willing to try and that gives us hope. The Native Plant Society of Texas and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will continue to support the Bring Back the Monarchs to Texas grant program for Monarch demonstration gardens and Monarch Waystations. The common denominator in success of the garden grants seems to be the sense of community bonding and the positive reactions of the communities. It’s been an inspiring three years for bringing the Monarch message to literally thousands of Texas residents and school children. We have gained friends and allies with many Texas organizations, schools and communities all making an effort to restore Monarch habitat. We can continue to make use of these resources to further our mission of restoring Monarch habitat.
If you are interested in helping to support the Bring Back the Monarchs to Texas program you have several options.
- If you have a good knowledge of Monarchs, migration and biology and enjoy teaching we are always looking for educators and presenters to further our message across the state. Contact Cathy Downs at email@example.com.
- If you or your organization would like to support our efforts financially you can donate directly to Bring Back the Monarchs to Texas by submitting a check directed to Native Plant Society of Texas at PO Box 3017, Fredericksburg, TX 78624-1929. You can also go the Donate button on our website here.
- If you would like to volunteer to help planting, manning a booth, collecting seed or in other regional activities contact Cathy Downs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And plant milkweed! Native milkweeds are available through several sources. Seeds for Texas milkweeds can be purchased at Native American Seed Company in Junction. Monarch Watch has a Milkweed Market where plugs of Texas milkweed are available in flats of 32. Check your local Native Plant Society of Texas and Texas Master Naturalist chapters for local native plant sales.
Always look for native plant nurseries that do not apply systemic pesticides. Systemic pesticide use will kill the insect larva we are trying to attract! Along with your milkweed patch be sure and include nectar plants that bloom all seasons including into the fall. Monarch butterflies returning to their overwintering areas in Mexico require higher lipid or fat values gained by nectar feeding in order to sustain them through the long months in the volcanic mountain ranges of Mexico.