Most people already know that the monarch butterfly makes a yearly migration from the U.S. and Canada to its wintering habitat in Mexico, but you may not know that the forested area in Mexico where monarchs make their winter home was always relatively small…and it is shrinking fast. In 2003, it was over 27 acres, but in 2014 it had shrunk to under 3 acres in size.
Besides loss of forest habitat in Mexico, the monarch is also under threat from climate change and the loss of the most important plant to the monarch’s survival in the U.S. and Canada...the milkweed plant. That’s where the home gardener can make a real difference in helping to save the monarch butterfly.
The milkweed is important to adult monarchs as a source of nectar, but it is also used as a host plant for caterpillars. Planting milkweeds (scientific name: Asclepias) in your garden is a great way to help the monarch survive and reproduce in the warm months in the U.S. and Canada.
In addition to the milkweed, consider planting other butterfly-friendly plants that are native to your particular gardening zone. These include plants like zinnias, coneflowers, butterfly bush (of course!), verbena, lantana, allium, black-eyed Susan, goldenrod, and many others. You can find a comprehensive list at monarchbutterflygarden.net.
Besides choosing the right plants, make sure you choose the right spot for your butterfly garden. Butterflies like a lot of sun and little to no breeze. Interested in learning more? Check out monarchwatch.org for information on saving the monarch and its habitats.
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