Monarchs are one of the most distinctive and attractive butterflies that visit our gardens, but loss of habitat in both the United States and Mexico over recent years means that they have come under pressure. While as individuals we have little control over many of the reasons for this loss of habitat, the one place where we can do our bit to encourage monarchs is in our gardens. This article by Benjamin Vogt which I found over on the Houzz website explains the problems monarchs face and suggests ways that we can help them to survive and flourish.
I had a 10-gallon aquarium sitting on our dining room table in 2011. I?d browsed Craigslist to find a rearing tank for monarchs. When I met with the seller in a McDonald?s parking lot, I discovered she was about 13, and her older brother came out from the counter inside to oversee the $20 transaction. It felt like a drug deal. In many ways it was ? I?m addicted to monarchs.
I raised 150 that year from egg to wing, and this year I raised only five. As the last bits of habitat in the Midwest for wildlife like monarch butterflies are being removed, our gardens are becoming last refuges. Our small lots provide opportunities to design new garden spaces that do more good than we?d ever dreamed possible.Monarch butterflies are probably one of the most visible summer butterflies ? they?re hard to miss. In fall they migrate thousands of miles, from as far as southern Canada all the way to the oyamel forests in the mountains of central Mexico. These conifer woodlands protect the monarchs from most weather, and as the insects cluster together in massive dreadlocks of butterflies, they keep each other warm. In the winter of 2012 to 2013, monarchs occupied only about 3 acres in Mexico, and while that number represents millions of monarchs, it is also a record low.The key threats to monarch butterflies, and countless other insects, are many; luckily, we have control over most of them. Here are a few.
- The loss of milkweeds, their only caterpillar host plant, due to the expansion of row crops in the Midwest and Great Plains, along with the growing of GMO crops, which tolerate more herbicide spraying.
- The push for biofuels, which encourages more conversion from prairie to row crops. From 2006 to 2011, 1.3 million acres were converted in just Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas.
- Suburban sprawl, which takes away 2.2 million acres of habitat a year.
- The deforestation of the oyamel forests in Mexico.
- New weather extremes in both North America and Mexico, which hinder reproduction in the spring and summer and the ability to survive winter.
See more at Houzz