National Pollinator Week Day 2 is all about Monarch Butterflies! They are scientifically known as Danaus plexippus, belonging to the Nymphalidae family.
As we all well know, the monarch is a crucial and highly studied species of milkweed butterfly and it calls many places home as it migrates throughout North and Central America. These beautifully winged creatures prepare for the cold weather of winter and begin to fly south, from as north as Canada to as south as Central Mexico, with the purpose of warmer weather. That is a migration of more than 2,000 miles! For us, that’s a long road trip, so just think of the journey it is for a butterfly of about .001-.0026 ounces!
“These international travelers return to the same forests each year, and some even find the same tree that their ancestors landed on.” – NatGeo Kids
But their journey doesn’t just start as a butterfly in, right? I’m sure plenty of us have seen the vibrant caterpillars of bright yellow, white, and black thin stripes on milkweed varieties. Soon these caterpillars will form their chrysalis and undergo metamorphosis – the process of transformation.
So why don’t we see these little caterpillars slinking around on anything else? When a monarch is in their caterpillar form, their only source of food comes from native milkweed plants, making this specific plant an essential larval host plant for a monarch to thrive in the other stages of their life.
The urgent news on this special butterfly is probably the most important thing to know and is described by California Department of Fish and Wildlife as:
“The North American migratory populations, however, have experienced dramatic declines over the past twenty years due to a suite of interrelated factors including habitat loss in breeding and overwintering sites, habitat degradation, disease, pesticide exposure, and climate change.” – CDFW
Therefore, two of the most productive things we can do to support the monarch species is plant more native milkweed (check out Calscape for different varieties) and limit or eliminate entirely our personal uses of pesticides. A couple local nurseries that carry native milkweed varieties in seeds, starts, and plants are below. Call ahead to see what their stock is like!
Home Street Garden Center: 789 Home St. Bishop, CA 93514. (760) 784-8277
Chalfant Big Trees Farm: 395 Hunter Ave. Bishop, CA 93514. (760) 873-7129
Activities to celebrate and support the Monarch Butterfly:
- Coloring page of the stages of a Monarch (Click to Download)
- Monarch origami to hang around and create a butterfly garden out of your home!
- Try this fun activity of making milkweed seed bombs to support habitat and garden restoration in your own pollinator garden: Save Our Monarchs
- Tell us what you learned in the comments!
Return tomorrow for: Mason Bees & Blue Orchard Bees!