Worldwide, some species of insect are observed to be in decline. One of them, the Monarch butterfly, has seen significant population drops. In 2017 alone, Monarch butterfly populations declined 27% in Mexico, where the insects spend winter.
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, which conducts the Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count, found that 2018’s population of Monarchs had decreased by a “disturbing” amount.
“In 2017, sites accounted for 77 percent of the total monarch overwintering population, hosting approximately 148,000 monarchs,” said Emma Pelton, a Xerces Society endangered species conservation biologist, in a statement. “In 2018, the same sites have only 20,456 monarchs. This represents an 86 percent decline since last year.”
While this decrease is stark, it is nothing new. Western Monarch butterflies have been in steady decline for years now. The Xerces society has been doing its annual butterfly count since the 1980s. Back then, they’d count butterflies in the millions. Beginning in 1997, the counts dropped to below 1 million. 2018’s count suggested just tens of thousands.
If you’re in California (or really anywhere) and want to help the Monarch butterflies, there are a few things you can do.
Avoid pesticides and insecticides at all costs
One of the reasons experts believe that Monarch butterfly populations are in decline is due to widespread use of chemical pesticides and insecticides. Consider ways to keep pests at bay that don’t involve nasty chemicals.
It’s pretty common knowledge that Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed plants, but what may not be so widely known is that there has been a significant loss of milkweed coverage, which is making it harder for the butterflies to reproduce. If you have a garden, plant a milkweed or two so the butterflies have somplace to lay their eggs!
Planting flowers that are in bloom year round are helpful to local butterfly populations, offering a crucial source of nutrition for the insects. But spring and autumn flowers are potentially the most important for Monarch butterflies. These are the times when wild flowers are flowering the least. By planting flowers that are in bloom during spring and fall, you’re helping keep these beautiful butterflies fed.