| This page is dedicated to the education
and conservation of Monarch butterflies. Here you will find information
on the present status of the Monarch population, learn the reasons for the
dwindling number of Monarchs, and find out what you can do to help
increase their numbers. You'll learn about the life cycle of a monarch and
come to understand why milkweed is so important in Monarch conservation.
Gardening-oriented businesses and organizations can also, on this page, order our beautiful, informative 'Save the Monarch' brochures for distribution to customers or members, or maybe to be used as a handout at special events your business or organization may be hosting or attending. The brochures, too, are geared toward Monarch education and conservation.
|Data for 1994-2003 collected
by personnel of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR) of the
National Commission of Natural Protected Areas in Mexico. Data for
2003-2013 collected by World Wildlife Fund Mexico in coordination with the
Dicectorate of the MBBR.
Above, a Monarch butterfly nectars on Butterfly Bush.
Franklin, February 28, 2014
the winter of 1993-1994, scientists have been traveling to Michoacan,
Mexico, every winter to monitor the size of the area that is occupied by
over-wintering Monarch butterflies. This information is used to provide
data on the status of the butterfly population, and might even be an
indicator of the status of pollinator insects in general.
the past two years, the Monarch population has plummeted to alarmingly low
numbers. There is reason for concern.
What has caused the Monarch
population to decline? The consensus among scientists is that there may
many factors at play. Among them are (1) the destruction of natural
habitat, (2) the increased use of insecticides, (3) the increased use of
herbicides, and (4) climate change.
Approximately 6,000 acres per
day, 2.2 million acres per year, of farmland and natural habitat is being
converted to housing developments, resorts, shopping centers, gulf
courses, and highways. Natural prairies and grasslands are being plowed
under to grow more corn and soybeans, two agricultural crops that have
skyrocketed in price over the last decade or so.
Almost all of the corn and
soybeans being planted today are herbicide-resistant varieties. Farmers
can plant the seed without having to till the soil, and then spray the
fields with herbicides to control the weeds. The herbicides kill the weeds
(including milkweed, which Monarchs must have to lay their eggs on) but do
not harm the corn and soybean plants. No one knows how many milkweed
plants have been killed by the application of herbicides, but likely,
millions have been poisoned in the past 10 years or so.
Entomologists who focus their study on the Monarch feel certain the
disappearance of milkweed from U.S. agricultural grounds, where it once
grew in abundance, is the number one reason for the dwindling number of
Entomologists who focus their study on the Monarch feel certain the disappearance of milkweed from U.S. agricultural grounds, where it once grew in abundance, is the number one reason for the dwindling number of Monarchs.
The widespread use of
insecticides to control mosquito and gypsy moth populations might likely
be contributing to the disappearance of butterflies too.
Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is often aerial-sprayed over forests,
wetlands, and near housing developments to kill the insect pests that must
be kept under control. But Bt is a notorious caterpillar killer! And while
butterflies were not the intended target of the spraying, I am pretty sure
that millions of butterfly larvae have been wiped out by Bt.
Climate change is another
factor that scientists often note as having an impact on the butterfly
population. The average temperature is increasing, droughts are becoming
more common, and storms are growing stronger. Along with these weather
events causing stress for humans, they are hard on the butterfly
Are insecticides killing the
butterflies? Are herbicides poisoning the milkweeds that Monarchs must
have in order for reproduction to occur? Are warmer summers, heavy rains,
violent wind storms, and/or droughts taking their toll? No one knows for
sure which of these factors has had the most devastating consequences for
the Monarch population, but one or more of these is assuredly causing the
Monarch populace to plummet.
The honey bee population
appears to be in serious trouble too. I wonder if it’s not the same
variables causing both the Monarch and honey bee populations to sharply
drop in number. And if, by chance, that is
the case, we’d better wake up. Without pollinators, the human race could
not exist. We need these insects to pollinate our food crops.
February, 2018 Update: The Monarch population has increased in
number since it's low in 2014, but not by much.
|What we can do to help increase the Monarch
Plant milkweed for them to lay eggs on. One of the milkweeds they highly favor for egg-laying
is Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), a South American
native that must be treated as an annual in most of the U.S. In September
and October, Tropical Milkweed provides nectar for the Monarchs that are
migrating to Mexico.
Plant nectar plants for the adult Monarchs to feed on.
Butterfly bushes (Buddleia
davidii), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea
purpurea), Meadow Blazing Star (Liatris
ligulistylis), Milkweed (Asclepias), and Zinnia are among their favorite nectar sources.
Refrain from using insecticides and herbicides on your
property. Remember, butterflies are insects that might be harmed by
the insecticides you use, and herbicides might kill plants that are vital
to butterfly survival and
Work to protect natural Monarch habitats (areas containing milkweed and wildflowers that can be
utilized for nectaring) from being disturbed or forever destroyed.
Donate to Monarch Watch or
another organization dedicated to the conservation, education, and
research of Monarch butterflies.
|The Life Cycle of a Monarch Butterfly
Eggs are laid on
milkweed plants by female Monarchs. They are generally deposited singly on
the undersides of leaves. A Monarch caterpillar hatches from the egg 5 to
7 days after it is laid. It is so tiny it can barely be seen, but just 10
to 14 days after hatching, it is fully grown, about 2
3/8” long. It
has grown (and become distasteful to birds) by feeding on a strict diet of
The Monarch Migration
Some Monarchs are permanent residents to Florida and California. Most,
those that are summer residents east of the Rocky Mountains, migrate to central Mexico for the winter. There, high in the
oyamel fir forests west of Mexico City, Monarchs are protected from
freezing temperatures from November through late February. In late
February, the butterflies mate and then begin the journey north. Milkweed
plants are now in growth mode in Texas, so this is where they will enter
the U.S. to begin the northward pilgrimage.
|'Save the Monarch'
I, Rose Franklin, created the 'Save the Monarch' brochure to educate
the public on the obstacles facing the Monarch and urge readers to assist
the Monarch in its struggle to multiply.
There is space on the back panel of the brochure for your company name,
address, web site address, phone number, etc.
|100 for $35.00 35cents each||200 for $60.00 30 cents each||300 for $67.50 25 cents each|
Plausible Negative Consequences of Protecting the Monarch under the Endangered Species Act
On August 26, 2014, a petition was filed with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, through the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, to protect the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act. The petitioners (The Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, The Xerces Society, and Dr. Lincoln Brower) state that the North American monarch population has declined by more than 90% in the past two decades and may be threatened with eventual extinction.
I, like most butterfly
enthusiasts, am highly concerned by the drastically reduced monarch
numbers. But I wonder if adding the monarch to the Endangered Species List
will help or hinder the monarch population. I wonder, too, if listing the
monarch as an endangered species might, to an even greater extent, deprive humans of its
majestic beauty and further increase the distance between mankind and
Entomologists agree that
the most significant reason for the plummeting drop in the monarch population is
that milkweed is being destroyed at an alarming rate on agricultural
grounds, where it once grew wild in abundance. Milkweed is vital to the
monarch, for it is the host plant for monarch larvae. Without milkweed to
feed the caterpillars, the butterfly cannot complete its lifecycle and
thus, the monarch population cannot survive.
Since 1996, when
genetically-modified, Roundup-Ready crops were introduced, milkweed has
been rapidly disappearing from farmland. Farmers are now able to plant
seed without having to first till the soil, and then spray their fields
with Roundup to control the weeds. The herbicide kills the weeds
(including milkweed) but does not harm the crops. While only Roundup-Ready
soybeans were available in 1996, today the list of genetically-modified
crops includes soy, corn, canola, alfalfa, cotton, sorghum, wheat, and
sugarbeets. Well over 90% of the corn and soy being planted in the U.S.
today are Roundup-Ready varieties, and there certainly appears to be
a direct correlation between the use of Roundup-Ready crops and the
destruction of milkweed in rural North America. And the scientific
community agrees that the loss of milkweed has resulted in the alarmingly
low monarch numbers.
Out of concern that an
iconic species might become extinct, the Endangered Species Act was passed
by Congress in 1973. The most serious threats to endangered animal species
have traditionally been shooting, poisoning, and trapping. To address
these concerns, Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act states that it
would be unlawful for any person “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot,
wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect” the species in danger of
extinction. Known as the “take clause,” Section 9 makes it illegal for
people to take the threatened species from the wild. The government
extended the “take clause” to include the “taking of habitat which
harbors, or could harbor, the endangered species.”
If the monarch is added
to the Endangered Species List, it will then be illegal for anyone to take
a monarch from the wild, and if the Fish and Wildlife Service determines
at some point that milkweed is critical to the monarch’s survival, it may be illegal
to harm, wound, or kill a milkweed plant.
petitioners say they recognize the valuable roles that citizen scientist monitoring and tagging, and classroom and in-home
rearing of monarchs play in monarch conservation and hence request that
upon Endangered Species Act listing, the Fish and Wildlife Service
facilitate or waive permitting requirements for teachers and citizen
scientists, so long as their rearing endeavors are
limited to raising 10 or less monarchs per year.
likely is it that the Fish and Wildlife Service would allow teachers and
citizen scientists to rear monarchs in the home or in the school once the
monarch is added to the list? Not very
likely at all! Rarely, very rarely, has the Fish and Wildlife Service
granted exceptions to the “take clause” and permitted the general
public to take the listed animal from the wild and raise it in the home or
in the school. If the monarch is indeed listed as a threatened species, it
will likely be illegal for any U.S. citizen (except for university
professors who are studying the insect) to harass, harm, pursue, wound,
kill, trap, capture, or collect monarchs. It will almost certainly be
illegal to collect any number of monarch eggs, caterpillars, pupae, or
adults from the wild.
teachers and citizen scientists, rather than collecting monarch eggs
and/or caterpillars from the wild, purchase them from commercial butterfly
breeders, the industry that often provides adult monarchs for release at
weddings, anniversaries, open houses, memorial services, and fund-raising
events. The petitioners, however, ask that all commercial breeding of
monarchs be prohibited. Why? Because they somehow concluded that
commercial breeders were raising and releasing millions upon millions of
monarchs per year, potentially interfering
with scientific studies on the distribution and movement of wild monarchs which, the petitioners claim, are increasingly important in
light of habitat loss and climate change. In reality, commercial
butterfly breeders produce significantly less than 10% of the number of monarchs that the
petitioners guessed they do, even if the petitioners' "millions and
millions" meant only two million. Nonetheless, if the monarch is added to the
Endangered Species List, and if the petitioners request is granted by the
Fish and Wildlife Service, there will be no commercial breeders for teachers
and citizen scientists to obtain their ten or less monarch eggs and/or
caterpillars from (should they be unable to find them in the wild).
And as I stated previously, is is highly doubtful that the Fish and
Wildlife Service would make an exception to the "take clause"
and allow monarchs to be reared in the home or in the school anyway.
And as I stated previously, is is highly doubtful that the Fish and Wildlife Service would make an exception to the "take clause" and allow monarchs to be reared in the home or in the school anyway.
I would be saddened to think that citizen scientists and school teachers
would be forbidden to raise monarchs, thus denying children the rewarding
experience of observing the miraculous monarch metamorphosis first-hand.
Watching a monarch caterpillar chewing on milkweed is like watching a
child chew on an ear of buttered sweet corn. Seeing a caterpillar pupate
is nothing less than amazing, and witnessing the emergence of a majestic
monarch butterfly from its chrysalis is simply mystical.
would also be saddened to think that brides would be deprived of large,
beautiful, brightly colored monarchs on the most important day of their
lives, and that those mourning the loss of a loved one might have to
compromise for small, fast-flying, zig-zagging painted ladies instead of
graceful, ballerina-like monarchs. Everyone knows and loves the monarch,
and everyone wishes to have monarchs released at their special event.
many people, a butterfly release is their first close-up encounter with a
live butterfly. In releasing monarchs, people, often for the first time,
experience the amazing, relaxing, mesmerizing feeling that butterflies
bring to humans. Many people leave the butterfly release with a goal of attracting monarchs to
their gardens. Some newlyweds send a packet of milkweed seeds home
with every guest. If monarch releases are banned by the Fish and Wildlife
Service, all the people who have experienced the joy of a monarch
butterfly release will know that others are being deprived of something
quite spectacular, an experience that is beautiful and peaceful, and
brings people a little closer to nature.
so many U.S. citizens now aware of the fact that monarchs are
dwindling in number because milkweed is rapidly disappearing from the
agricultural landscape, many are eager to aid the monarch in its quest to
multiply. Americans have, in the last few years, begun to plant milkweed seeds
and plants by the tens of thousands. I know this to be true because I
operate a perennial nursery and have watched milkweed sales skyrocket in
recent years. And because the monarch has an enormous fan club, I have no
doubt that milkweed sales will continue to rise in coming years, in my
nursery, and in hundreds more across the nation.. Milkweed might be vanishing from rural farmland, but it is
popping up in home gardens, in city parks and state parks and national
parks, along nature
trails, and in botanical gardens. Within a few years, I suspect we will
see that milkweed hasn't disappeared, but instead, was simply
redistributed. And with a dramatic increase in the number of milkweed
plants will come an increase in the number of monarchs, this assuming, of
course, that droughts, floods, and violent storms don’t take their toll
on the population.
monarch is no more at risk of extinction than any other butterfly. Those
of us who garden for butterflies have watched the population of most
butterfly species dwindle over the past few decades. And last year, the
year that the monarch population was at a record low, so too were some
other butterfly species at record lows.
is widely accepted that (1) the loss
of habitat, and (2) the overuse of insecticides and herbicides are the two factors that
have contributed most to the diminishing butterfly population. Here in the
northeast, millions of woodland butterfly larvae have likely been killed
by aerial spraying that was intended to control the gypsy moth population.
Here and elsewhere, insecticides aimed at controlling mosquitoes and other
pestilent insects have probably wiped out thousands, and in all
likelihood, millions, more butterflies.
Butterflies were not the intended targets of the insecticidal spraying,
but they have certainly suffered the consequences.
think the monarch is fortunate in having an audience that is alert to its
needs and is willing to aid it in its time of need. Other butterfly
species are not so blessed. My opinion is that the monarch should not be
listed as a Threatened Species. Listing it will not likely increase its
numbers and may actually decrease their numbers. Planting more milkweed
will most assuredly increase the
population. Listing the monarch will likely make it illegal to raise
monarchs in the home and in the classroom, illegal to release monarchs at
weddings and other special events, and illegal to take monarch eggs,
caterpillars, chrysalises, or adults from the wild for any purpose
(including education and display). Likely, monarchs will have
to be removed from butterfly houses and other such public displays too.
of supporting the petition to list the monarch as an Endangered Species,
let’s all just plant more milkweed. I feel assured that will more
quickly increase the monarch numbers.
Copyright © 2002-2018. [Rose Franklin's Perennials]. All rights reserved.
Revised: February 10, 2018