Western monarchs at overwintering site in Santa Cruz, CA 2017. Photo by Naturedigger
Today is Western Monarch Day, which is a pretty big deal this year considering their population is in serious trouble. The chart below from Xerces Society is a unique representation of the western monarch decline since the 80's. If you're a visual kind of thinker, this will really hit home for you...
So in light of the devastating decline of the western monarch butterfly population, you may be asking yourself what can you personally do to help out this imperiled, iconic species. Well, there are several things every person in the west can do, starting with ceasing the use of pesticides. That's about the easiest thing anyone can do to help monarchs. By choosing not to go to a big box store and purchase a toxic chemical (that is also bad for humans and other species) you are helping out one of our most recognizable insects. See? How hard was that? If you take it a step further and plant milkweed native to your region (never plant tropical milkweed, Asclepias curassavica... Don't get me started on that one), as well as native flowering species, you will be not only helping monarchs, but will be amazed at how many other cool insects you see coming to your yard or garden. By increasing the number of insects, you will also see an increase in bird species. Who doesn't like birds???? Speak to your local nurseries and encourage them to carry native milkweed and flowering plants that will help monarch populations when they are migrating from the coast to the Rocky Mountains in the spring, as well as when they are migrating back to the coast in early fall. Sometimes those fall native species get overlooked, but they are critical to this effort.
Another important thing you can do to help monarchs in the west is to work at local, regional, and state levels to ensure that overwintering sites in California have sufficient legal and enforced protection. Sites that have been designated as protected habitat have been destroyed or altered leaving them unsuitable for overwintering monarchs. Keeping an eye out for this type of activity along the coast can be a real game changer for our western monarchs. For more information about how you can help with this effort, check out this document about protecting overwintering sites by Xerces Society.
It's going to take everyone doing their part to bring back the western monarch, but we are now living in a time when this is a real possibility since we can now count on elected officials to support us in this effort. So please do your part and spread the word to your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Let's see what we can all do together if we put our energy and our minds into solving this very real and serious crisis.