The beautiful gem like monarch butterfly inspires awe. They take an epic journey of 3,000 miles every year. They pass the adventure of traveling from southern Canada to central Mexico from generation to generation.
But according to the 2018 Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count, the number of western monarchs dropped 86% over the previous year.
According to National Geographic, a farmer warned bug specialist Chip Taylor of the destruction of this beautiful species as early as 2004. New crop varities and agricultural practices are wiping out milkweed in rural areas. Housing development, drought, and gardening practices are eliminating milkweed in suburban and urban areas.
Monarch butterflies are resistably drawn to milkweed because they need it. Monarch catepillars only eat milkweed. If their eggs are laid on other plants, the caterpillars will have nothing to eat, they will starve, and die. Female monarchs need to lay their eggs on milkweed in order for them to survive.
Monarchs can make a come back with your help if you plant milkweed native to your area. You can put milkweed in strategic places in your yard, grow milkweed in pots on your apartment balcony, avoid pesticides, and provide a place for monarchs to thrive.
While milkweed has “weed” in its name, it’s a wildflower native to the United States and it’s not classified as a noxious weed. The white milky sap does contain toxins called cardiac glycosides. Monarchs use it to make a bitter tasting substance that keeps predators from eating them.
Coming into contact with milkweed can cause rashes on your skin. Eating a salad made from milkweed will make you sick. So wash your hands, don’t eat it, and don’t let your pets or children eat it. Other than that, plant milkweed and help the monarchs thrive.