Wild Ones Go Wild for Monarchs!

The Wild Ones, a national non-profit environmental education and advocacy organization based in Wisconsin launches “Wild for Monarchs,” a campaign to support the monarch butterfly migration.

monarch butterfly

Lunchtime by Claire Kim

Native Plants and Natural Landscapes are primary focus of the Wild Ones but they want the public to know how important it is to campaign for the best known insect migration in the world. Wild Ones members are meeting with organizations and community chapters to promote such Monarch basics as:

  • how to clean, grow and collect milkweed,
  • how to plant Monarch Way stations and
  • specific facts on the current plight of the monarch butterfly.

It is truly amazing how the fall migrating monarchs survive for eight or nine months through the heavy demands of migration, flying the equivalent of a marathon race every day. From the northeastern US, these butterflies navigate each year to a winter refuge in a specialized ecosystem, 10,000 feet up in the Trans-volcanic Mountains of central Mexico. Sheltered by dense fir trees, the monarchs cluster together and are sustained by their own body’s food reserves that consist of long-lasting lipids, metabolized from milkweed leaves eaten as caterpillars and from the sweet flower nectar gathered as adult butterflies.

As the early spring days lengthen, overwintering monarch butterflies begin their movement down the tall mountains to migrate back northward. As they move into northern Mexico and the southern United States, the females look for sprouts of fresh milkweed on which they’ll lay the eggs – spawning a new generation of monarchs, ready to continue the population’s spring migration north. This first generation of the new year re-colonizes their summer breeding range. The story is well known, but still inspires awe, especially for those who become personally involved through observation, reflection and stewardship of nature.

In our quickly changing world, this extraordinary annual migration has become even more challenging. Research trends show significant monarch butterfly population decreases starting in 1997-98, in both the eastern and western migrating monarchs. The primary drivers of these declines are habitat loss in the overwintering sites from illegal logging and in their northern breeding range, from development and the loss of wild milkweed plants to agricultural development.

Monarch caterpillar on swamp milkweed

Monarch caterpillar on swamp milkweed by Jan Dixon

There is a strong correlation between the increased use of herbicides allowed by genetically-modified crops and the decline in monarch numbers. Climate change, recent drought conditions and increased frequency of severe storms can also affect monarchs and their habitat.

The monarchs have taken flight in their spring migration – they are on their way!

This season plan to welcome the monarchs back by planting more milkweed and native nectar plants. Help monarch conservation take flight! If we all grow additional milkweed and native nectar plants, we would truly provide considerable support for monarchs and other Lepidoptera, as well as an array of native pollinators.

If you prefer not to grow your own plants from seed, you can order plants from your local Wild Ones chapter’s spring plant sales or seek out a native plant grower in your area. To learn more about monarchs, go to the Wild Ones Website to find valuable information from basic lore to children’s activities.

Become a partner in the Wild for Monarchs campaign by periodically checking the Wild for Monarch Blog to see what new things have been added. Share your monarch photos in this great collection, find ideas and activities, successes and advice. Help spread the word about the Wild for Monarchs campaign by posting on your Facebook page or simply mention it to a friend. You can email monarchs@wildones.org or call 877.394.9453 and request copies of the brochures and other promotional materials specially developed for the Wild for Monarchs campaign. Tell everyone you’ve “gone Wild for Monarchs!”

You can join or find out more about the Wild Ones’ Door County Chapter from President, Peter Sigmann at 920.824.5193 or Cliff Orsted 920.746.9770, cliff@doorlandscape.com.

Wild Ones promotes environmentally sound landscaping practices to preserve biodiversity through the preservation, restoration and establishment of native plant communities. Wild Ones is a partner in the Monarch Joint Venture formed by researchers and conservationists to protect monarchs and other pollinators in response to the decline in monarch numbers and habitat. See www.monarchjointventure.org for more info.

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