How We Can All Help Save Monarch Butterflies

An interview with conservationist Danielle Fox


Published:

According to the National Wildlife Federation, the population of monarch butterflies has declined by about 90 percent over the past 20 years. This loss of important pollinators is due in part to human-caused phenomena like climate change, habitat destruction, and pesticide use. After the early-summer National Pollinator Week highlighted efforts to support pollinating species, monarch conservation efforts continue to be important during the butterflies’ summer breeding and fall migration seasons.

The migration and breeding pathway millions of monarchs fly through twice a year is known as the Monarch Highway, and it’s made up of the six central U.S. states, from Minnesota to Texas, that have agreed to increase conservation and outreach efforts. Large portions of the Midwest, including the northern states on this route, were classified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) in 2015 as high-priority regions for conservation efforts. Missouri lies squarely in the middle of the Monarch Highway, and its north and central regions are within the FWS’s highest-priority areas. Last fall, the Missourians for Monarchs Collaborative, a statewide group that includes cities, conservation organizations, individuals, and corporations, pledged to create and maintain 19,000 acres of new pollinator habitat in Missouri every year until 2036.

As the community conservationist for the city of Columbia in mid-Missouri, Danielle Fox coordinates the city’s efforts to restore and preserve monarch habitat, including managing the city’s involvement in national monarch protection programs. Food Tank spoke with Fox to learn more about the importance of monarch butterflies and how we can help save them.

Food Tank (FT): What projects are you currently working with relating to monarchs? What conservation efforts are being taken at this point, either here in Columbia or nationally, to support habitat, migration, or survival?

Danielle Fox (DF): First, we have the Mayors’ Monarchs Pledge that the City of Columbia signed in October. [When] you sign the pledge, you agree to a certain number of action items that the National Wildlife Federation has listed. You can find all that on their website. The three action items that we have agreed to are to plant a monarch butterfly garden at City Hall, to increase our invasive species management operations, and to also help to do more education and outreach with nearby schools in Columbia. The first two things we have completed. The third, working with the schools, is something we are embarking on very soon.

We also have a grant from the 3M Corporation for a monarch butterfly habitat restoration project, so we have about US$25,000 to restore habitat for monarchs and other pollinating species at several different sites across the city.

In addition to the Mayors’ Monarchs [Pledge], we joined the Missourians for Monarchs Collaborative in October. That is a collaborative of different organizations, ranging from individual citizens all the way to corporations like Monsanto, cities, and various organizations of different sizes and capacities. It’s a collaborative of these groups working together to help conserve the monarch butterfly.

One of our bigger projects is our median and roundabout pollinator projects, so we’re working with our public works department and our office of sustainability, which I’m affiliated with. Here in Columbia, we have roundabouts that are very large, half an acre or more in size. It’s a lot of turf grass that needs to be mowed. As a way to decrease our greenhouse gas emissions as well as for us to save money and staff time—and to create some habitat—we are now in the process of converting those areas over to native planting. The one roundabout that we were able to complete this spring has milkweed and aster and liatris, or blazing star, and different native plants that support pollinating species and also add an aesthetic value to the community.

FT: How did we get to where we are today, with monarch populations decreasing?

DF: The ecological reason is that we’ve seen severe declines in their population numbers. Specifically looking at the monarch butterfly, their populations have declined from their original population by around 90 percent. One of the biggest concerns is habitat loss, and a lot of that comes from urbanization and modern agricultural practices. With roads and all these different structures, we’re breaking up the habitat, we’re depleting the habitat. We completely alter everything whenever we develop an area. By removing all of the vegetation and then scraping off the topsoil, which contains all the rich organic matter and the seed bank of all those plants that had existed in that area for thousands of years, we just basically wipe it all away and smooth it out and build on it.

And through our landscaping, we have introduced many plants that are from Asia or Africa that are not even native to North America, let alone Missouri. Those plants don’t have any natural competition—there are no insects here that recognize them as food—so they don’t eat them. These plants are just able to take over, which is why we chose improving our invasive species management operations as one of our pledge action items, because it’s so important for conserving habitat.

FT: Why is it important to support monarchs and other pollinators?

DF: The most direct reason is that they pollinate our food. Without them, we really are in bad shape. Lots of people don’t really think about it, but all of our crops that we eat, and all of the crops that our livestock eat, are all supported by pollinators.

FT: Even though the official National Pollinator Week is over, what are some things individuals can do to help monarchs on a regular basis?

DF: Plant native plants. Monarchs specifically rely upon milkweed as their host plant. Their caterpillar is a food specialist, a picky eater, so it only eats milkweed. The females, when they come to lay their eggs, they seek out the milkweed plant. If you want to help create more monarch butterflies, grow milkweed in your backyard. I live in an apartment, and I grow milkweed in a container on my back porch. So anywhere, any way, you can contribute in some way.

Jared Kaufman is a research and writing intern for Food Tank. A Minneapolis native, he’s currently working toward degrees in magazine journalism and international studies at the University of Missouri. He’s especially interested in food and public health reporting, and has worked at a variety of magazines, newspapers, public relations offices, and strategic communication firms. Jared enjoys travelling and biking, and at any given moment, he’s probably eating, cooking, reading or writing about food, or wishing he was doing one of those things.

This article was republished from Food Tank.

See also:
Turning Solar Sites Into Pollinator-Friendly Habitats Is The Sweetest Idea
Wild Bees Can Help Honey Bees—How Your Yard Can Support Them

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

June 18, 2018

Today’s stars support those “scouts’ among us who prepare for every possible contingency. A waxing Virgo Moon is favorably aspected to Uranus and Saturn, creating a super productive Grand Trine in the heavens. The pragmatic configuration enables and…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

June 2018

Join us for a monthly gathering of like-hearted people to give and receive angelic energy healing. This session is a combination of group meditation and discussion, along with working in pairs...

Cost: Scale $5-$20 ($10 suggested)

Where:
Pathway Of Joy
884 Broadway, Suite 12
Upstairs in the Spiritual Renaissance Center building
South Portland, ME  04106
View map »


Sponsor: Pathway Of Joy
Telephone: 207-329-7192
Contact Name: Linda Huitt
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events

8 Week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Course with Erin Woo Tuesdays, May 1 - June 19, 6–8:30 pm *Includes an all day retreat on Saturday, June 9 from 9 am - 4 pm Come explore the...

Cost: $290

Where:
Balance Bethlehem
2087 Main Street
Bethlehem, NH  03574
View map »


Sponsor: Balance Bethlehem
Telephone: 603-869-2125
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

If you are worried about getting Parkinson’s or have beginning symptoms, check out a free intro on how to rewire your brain from the inside. First and third Wednesdays of the month,...

Where:
, MA


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

June 21 - 24, 2018 Healing trauma and installing boundaries. 9am-6pm each day. With Judith Swack, PhD. Learn how to heal PTSD. HBLU™ integrates the best of biomedical science, psychology,...

Where:
Needham, MA


Telephone: 781-444-6940
Website »

More information

Learn from local industry leaders, scientists and experts about innovations in wellness, behavioral change, nutrition, fitness, environmental, societal wellbeing and more. Learn how to start or...

Cost: Free

Where:
CIC Cambridge
One Broadway
Venture Cafe 5th Floor
Cambridge, MA  02142-3104
View map »


Sponsor: CIC Cambridge
Telephone: 617-953-0674
Contact Name: Shakti Rowan
Website »

More information

Energy Healing is an expression of our infinite connection to divine life force and divine imagination. When these divine forces move through us, they bring healing, wisdom, and the ability to...

Cost: $30

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
90 Main Street
Andover, MA  01810
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Website »

More information

June 21 - July 1, 2018 Women’s Yoga Retreats in beautiful Rockport, ME. Relax, rejuvenate, rediscover. 3 amazing options: Kundalini Summer Solstice - Jun 21-24 Gentle Yoga - Jun 24-28...

Where:
Rockport, ME


Telephone: 508-990-6795

More information

Third Tuesday of every month! A wonderful way to dilute stress and heal yourself with peace. www.WisdomoftheAges.biz www.Facebook.com/WisdomoftheAgesStore

Cost: $10

Where:
Wisdom of the Ages
Simsbury, CT


Telephone: 860-651-1172
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

With Joseph Carringer Relax, clear out energetic and emotional stagnation and connect with your major energy centers. Joseph provides a meditative journey that reconnects the mind with the...

Cost: $45

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
Lower Level
6 Chestnut Street
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Telephone: 603-867-3969
Contact Name: Alice Bentley
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags