Monarch Butterflies Are Now Endangered in North America – What Can We Do in New England?
Editor's note: This article was written by a Townsquare Media Northern New England contributor and may contain the individual's views, opinions or personal experiences.
Never in my life did I think I would be writing about such a topic.
It saddens me to say this, but Monarch Butterflies are endangered in North America.
The population of the orange and black butterflies (likely the first butterfly you think of when you picture one) has gone down somewhere between 22% and 72% in the past decade, according to a CBS News article.
In most of New England, we see this type of butterfly in the summer.
Monarchs lay their eggs on certain “host plants”, aka milkweed, the only plants their caterpillars can eat according to a National Wildlife Foundation article.
So the issue is the decline of milkweed. We, humans, are the cause of the milkweed deduction. Milkweed is commonly destroyed by human development. "Today, more than 90 percent of native grasslands have been converted to cropland and development," according to the National Wildlife Foundation.
This is one of those topics that can, unfortunately, go unnoticed and eventually become incurable. Since Monarchs are common in late summer and early fall for New England, we may not noticed a shift in the butterfly's presence until it is too late.
That said, if we do not do something now, by the time the rest of the world cares, it may be too late. Maybe the 22-72% deduction becomes 72-92% of the population wiped out.
It is time to make this known and turn it around ASAP.
Boston is already on the move. The Natural Resources team of the Boston Harbor Islands has been working to remove invasive plant species such as black swallowwort, and to plant native plant species that Monarchs enjoy, according to a Boston Harbor Island article.
What can you do now?
For one, let people know. Animal and plant species do not go extinct over night. They become vulnerable, endangered, and then extinct. So let's start this conversation and make people aware that these beautiful butterflies are at risk.
As for the following steps, The National Wildlife Foundation has six recommendations:
- Help Save Grasslands — America’s native grasslands are critically important for monarchs. They offer both milkweed for monarch caterpillars as well as nectar plants for adult butterflies (and many other pollinators too). Today, more than 90 percent of native grasslands have been converted to cropland and development. Grasslands are disappearing faster than any other ecosystem in North America, and that’s a big problem for monarchs. Join NWF in fighting to save grasslands for monarchs.
- Support Highway Habitat Corridor — NWF and USFWS are working to create a coalition of agriculture leaders and highway transportation organizations to plant milkweed and nectar plants along monarch migratory flyways and in other important monarch breeding grounds along key Midwest and Texas corridors. Learn more about highway habitat corridor plan and how to support it.
- Plant Milkweed — You can make saving the monarch personal by planting milkweed in your yard or garden. There are many milkweed species found in North America, so no matter where you live, there’s at least one species native to your area. You’ll be rewarded not only with the knowledge that you are making a difference, but by attracting monarchs to enjoy. Find out what milkweeds are from your region.
- Don’t Use Pesticides — Monarchs are insects, and so spraying insecticides will kill them. Make the commitment to avoid spraying pesticides in your yard. Find out how to garden organically.
- Create Monarch Habitat— NWF’s Garden for Wildlife program can teach you how to turn any outdoor space into a complete habitat for monarch. Just provide food, water, cover, and places to raise young. It all starts with what you plant, and you can create a habitat garden in your own yard, office, your church, or the local school grounds. Entire communities are launching efforts to create monarch habitats. Learn how to create a wildlife-friendly garden.
- Join NWF Affiliate Efforts in Your State — Eleven of NWF’s state affiliates are active partners in the Garden for Wildlife program, which teaches people how to create habitat for monarchs and other wildlife. They offer regional expertise and resources, as well as native milkweed seeds, running monarch tagging and citizen science efforts, and even working on legislative solutions. Joining these efforts is a great way to get involved on the local level. Find out if your state’s NWF affiliate is working to protect monarchs.