Monarch Butterfly and Milkweed

Most people know about the incredible butterfly who migrates up to 3,000 miles every year. The monarch butterfly is a beautiful pollinator that loves milkweed and lives about 2 to 6 weeks, unless it’s a migratory monarch: then the life span becomes 6-9 months. It’s a short time compared to the years we have, especially with their essential role of pollination. But monarchs are becoming threatened, and our beautiful pollinators may soon disappear.

Monarch butterflies pollinate many kinds of wildflowers, but they can only lay their eggs on one plant: the milkweed. Milkweed is the only food their caterpillars will eat. Because of this, milkweed provides protection to monarchs. Milkweed is poisonous, and the monarchs store those toxins in their body to ward off predators. Therefore, their survival depends on milkweed in so many fundamental ways. Of course, milkweed depends on monarchs to be pollinated. Together, they continue to survive. However, milkweed is fast disappearing. Without that treasured plant, monarchs are dying without laying their eggs. Without monarchs, the plants they pollinate are also threatened.

So what happened to milkweed? Habitat loss and pesticides are destroying their future. It seems to be a common theme. But that doesn’t mean we can’t stop this. By planting milkweed, we help both monarchs, the plants monarchs pollinate, and milkweed itself. Luckily, this is a problem we can solve in our backyard easily. If everyone planted a milkweed plant, monarchs would be saved. We can also use legislation to protect habitats and banning pesticides. Together, we can save these precious pollinators.

 

Further readings and how to help:

A semi-realistic painting of a Monarch Butterfly on a brick wall. It appears to be around four feet wide. The background is light/swamp green, with a strip of blue on the right.
A mural painting of a monarch butterfly caterpillar crawling up a leaf. It is striped yellow, black, and white. It is crawling upwards, and appears around two feet tall. Behind it are painted orange flowers with yellow petals in the center. The background is medium-light blue.