SHR is helping to assure the preservation of the monarch butterfly through monitoring efforts in partnership with Monarch Watch.
Every year, million of monarchs migrate from the US and Canada to overwinter in the warmer climates of California and Mexico. As they make this 3,000-mile journey, they need places to stop, rest and refuel.
SHR is helping to assure the preservation of the monarch butterfly through monitoring efforts in partnership with Monarch Watch. Although the monarch butterfly population is estimated at over 100 million, conservation efforts continue to be needed as commercial development increases.
Sites like the Reserve provide the wooded habitat necessary to support butterfly colonies at key points in their migration and life cycles. Butterflies stop off at the Reserve to refuel before continuing on their 3,000+ -mile migrations. Planting milkweed in your garden will help attract monarchs to your gardens at home. This flowering plant is the only food that monarch larvae eat.
Monarch Waystations are places that provide resources necessary for monarchs to produce successive generations and sustain their migration. Without milkweeds throughout their spring and summer breeding areas in North America, monarchs would not be able to produce the successive generations that culminate in the migration each fall. Similarly, without nectar from flowers these fall migratory monarch butterflies would be unable to make their long journey to overwintering grounds in Mexico. The need for host plants for larvae and energy sources for adults applies to all monarch and butterfly populations around the world.
Milkweeds and nectar sources are declining due to development and the widespread use of herbicides in croplands, pastures and roadsides. Because 90% of all milkweed/monarch habitats occur within the agricultural landscape, farm practices have the potential to strongly influence monarch populations.
Development (subdivisions, factories, shopping centers, etc.) in the U.S. is consuming habitats for monarchs and other wildlife at a rate of 6,000 acres per day - that's 2.2 million acres each year, the area of Delaware and Rhode Island combined!
Genetically Modified Crops
Widespread adoption of herbicide-resistant corn and soybeans has resulted in the loss of more than 80 million acres of monarch habitat in recent years. The planting of these crops genetically modified to resist the non-selective systemic herbicide glyphosate (Roundup®) allows growers to spray fields with this herbicide instead of tilling to control weeds. Milkweeds survive tilling but not the repeated use of glyphosate. This habitat loss is significant since these croplands represent more than 30% of the summer breeding area for monarchs.
The use of herbicides and frequent mowing along roadsides has converted much of this habitat to grasslands - a habitat generally lacking in food and shelter for wildlife. Although some states have started to increase the diversity of plantings along roadsides, including milkweeds, these programs are small.
Unfortunately, the remaining milkweed habitats in pastures, hayfields, edges of forests, grasslands, native prairies, and urban areas are not sufficient to sustain the large monarch populations seen in the 1990s. Monarchs need our help.
What You Can Do
To offset the loss of milkweeds and nectar sources we need to create, conserve, and protect milkweed/monarch habitats. We need you to help us and help monarchs by creating "Monarch Waystations" (monarch habitats) in home gardens, at schools, businesses, parks, zoos, nature centers, along roadsides, and on other unused plots of land. Without a major effort to restore milkweeds to as many locations as possible, the monarch population is certain to decline to extremely low levels.
The Value of Monarch Waystations
By creating and maintaining a Monarch Waystation, you are contributing to monarch conservation, an effort that will help assure the preservation of the species and the continuation of the spectacular monarch migration phenomenon.