The Palisadian-Post has partnered with locally founded environmental nonprofit Resilient Palisades to deliver a weekly “green tip” to our readers.
Perhaps one of the most iconic butterflies of North America—certainly on the West Coast—is the monarch butterfly. Nearly every Californian can recall stopping in their tracks to watch one of these regal, orange-and-black butterflies flutter by.
Today, the monarch butterfly is on the absolute brink of extinction. The western monarch’s overwintering population in California fell to 2,000 individuals this year—a dramatic decrease from 29,000 and 27,000 the last two years and less than 0.01% of what their population was in the 1980s, according to Xerces Society.
There are two separate populations of monarchs, the western and eastern, defined by which side of the Rocky Mountains they occur. Each winter, the western population migrates from the Pacific Northwest to California, returning to the same locations and even the same exact trees where they huddle in masses for warmth. Along the way, they lay eggs on milkweed species and feed on native plants that supply them nectar.
The two largest factors in their decline are a loss of milkweed plants along their migration routes due to urbanization and the overuse of herbicides and pesticides in backyard gardens.
To give these iconic butterflies a fighting chance this coming year:
Stop using all chemical-based pesticides and herbicides. Unless they are 100% plant-based, e.g. neem oil, these sprays are too toxic for pollinators.
Avoid buying any outdoor plants whose seeds have been treated with Roundup or something similar because these last the lifetime of the plant, including transferring through the nectar.
Whether you have a patio or a garden, pot or plant native milkweeds (so they bloom at the right time and help keep the monarchs migrating as they should) and other native plants to supply nectar to monarch adults, e.g. pair the coastal narrow-leafed milkweed Asclepias fascicularis with black sage or goldenrod. (Rule of thumb when buying milkweed: Avoid the orange and yellow varieties—our native species are white or pink.)
Visit xerces.org and nwf.org to learn more about planting for
monarchs and more.
For more information about Resilient Palisades, including upcoming events, visit resilientpalisades.org.
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