The Monarch Butterfly: YOU Can Help Them Now!

As a child growing up in Iowa in the 70’s and 80’s, monarch butterflies were common. So common that the notion that some day they would be on the verge of extinction would have been laughable. Today, it seems extinction of the monarch butterfly is not an unlikely scenario if current trends in their population decline continues.

But unlike other declining species, species that require hundreds of acres of pristine habitat for survival, the monarch can thrive in our backyards, parks, and other suburban areas with a minimal effort on our part. It’s as EASY as this:

1. Select a spot in your backyard, preferably a sunny spot.
2. Mark off an area in your yard for a butterfly garden.
3. Remove any sod and till the area with a garden tiller or hand cultivator enough to loosen the soil for planting of seeds and already potted plants.
4. In the new garden, plant milkweed species and nectar rich flowers.
5. Maintain the garden by watering and weeding as necessary.

It’s as simple as that!

In the Midwest, there are nearly a dozen different milkweed species. When I plant milkweed, I plant those native to Iowa: Common milkweed, butterflyweed, Sullivant’s milkweed, and swamp milkweed. I’ve collected seed in the wild from ditches and prairie remnants. Some species like Sullivant’s milkweed no longer exist in the area, so I’ve ordered seed online from a fine native plant nursery: “Prairie Moon Nursery”; other sources exist. Monarchs are not that picky and any of the milkweed species listed above are acceptable to them. Be patient though, because from seed, it may take a couple of years before milkweed plants reach mature size.

Planting other flowers with the milkweed is a good idea. I choose prairie plants native to Iowa: prairie blazing star, rough blazing star, pale purple coneflower, stiff goldenrod, native asters, and others. Planting these species will provide nectar sources and attract monarchs to your yard where they will find the milkweed you planted.

If enough people take these steps, the monarch might again be common.

In future posts, I will be sharing my efforts to help the monarch in my yard. I hope I have encouraged at least one person to join the effort to save the monarch butterfly. The world will not be as interesting without the monarch.

I leave you with this quote from Beebe:

“The beauty and genius of a work of art may be reconceived, though its first material expression be destroyed; a vanished harmony may yet again inspire the composer; but when the last individual of a race of living beings breathes no more, another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one can be again.” — William Beebe