We all recognize the iconic monarch butterfly with its majestic orange and black wings. Unfortunately, there has been a 90% drop in the population of the monarch butterfly in the United States over the past 20 years, but there is something gardeners can do to make a big difference in their decline.
Butterflies are more than just beautiful; they are beneficial to the environment and your garden. Butterflies pollinate plants that produce about one-third of the food that we eat. They flutter from plant to plant drinking nectar, and as they move, they take pollen with them. The pollen is deposited on other plants, helping with the continuation and growth of many plant species. The presence of butterflies also signals a healthy environment.
Because they are very sensitive to pesticides, if you keep an organic garden, chances are that butterflies and other beneficial insects such as ladybugs and bees, which eat plant-damaging insects like aphids, will be present as well. That’s good for the overall life and health of your garden!
Unfortunately, the butterfly we all know and love is losing its habitat, specifically milkweed, to modern farming methods and population development. The monarchs are the only North American butterflies that make a 3,000-mile migration to Mexico and California for the winter, taking six to eight generations to complete the journey. The fragmentation of milkweed in their migratory path is significant because milkweed is the only host plant where Monarchs lay their eggs, and the sole food source for their larvae. With fewer host plants, their population is suffering.
Their population decline is so significant that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing to determine whether the butterfly should be classified as “threatened” under the Federal Endangered Species Act. As home gardeners, we can help to replenish the butterfly habitat by sowing milkweed/butterfly flower from our friends at Botanical Interests, whose goal is a butterfly flower in every garden! Our stores offer three assorted butterfly flower seed collections. (Skus 700717, 701105, 701283, $1.99–$3.99)