By Sue Salvat
As I write this, I await the arrival of the monarch butterflies on their journey north. Last year I first saw them in my yard at the end of June, and that was the start of an amazing summer. My neighbor and I had only four milkweed plants between us, but collected about 30 monarch eggs and caterpillars, raised them to adulthood, and released them. In the process we learned so much about them, and helped maintain our local monarch population.
Overall, monarch numbers are up from the lows of the last few years, but are still 32% below the historic average. Monarchs face many obstacles during their lives, including loss of habitat due to development, roadside management that mows and sprays milkweed, and lack of nectar flowers.
While maintaining migration routes and overwintering sites is an international undertaking, there are things we can each do to help locally. One way to help monarchs is to raise and release them. Another is to plant milkweed, the only plant on which monarchs lay their eggs. A third way is to help offset the loss of milkweed and nectar sources by creating a Monarch Waystation garden.
There are some great resources for people interested in monarch butterflies. These include Monarch Watch (Monarch Waystation program, plant lists), Monarch Teacher Network (education, workshops), and Journey North (tracks migration). Check them out, and be on the lookout for monarchs this summer.