Twenty years ago, there were 1 billion monarch butterflies migrating 3,000 miles from the US to Mexico. Today, there are only 35 million! If you don’t want to do the math, that is less than 10 percent around now compared to what was around when the Spice Girls were big.
So what happened? Well, a weed that the monarch butterflies (and caterpillars) eat started to go away, and along with this weed went the monarchs.
Monarch butterflies feed on milkweed. Twenty years ago, milkweed grew quite a bit. But, with the development of crops that can resist herbicides, farmers sprayed and sprayed killing off the milkweed. When there is no milkweed, there are no monarchs.
Monarchs are a majestic species and one of the last animals we know that proceed with a great migration. American Bison (also known as the buffalo) use to migrate long distances, but they were virtually exterminated. Carrier pigeons used to migrate, but they are not around any more either. So, here we are facing another extinction of an animal, but there is something that we can all do to stop the monarchs from going away forever.
One thing you can do is stop mowing your lawn. Yes, you read that right. If you don’t mind a few wild flowers, why not add milkweed to the mix. There are places that will give you free milkweed seeds.
Cities can stop mowing around power lines and underpasses that need not be well manicured. Here, milkweed can grow and give monarchs something to dine on too.
What is clear is that all of us can make a difference and bring these beautiful creatures back to a robust population. We often hear about butterfly effects, but this time we can have an effect on butterflies.