Butterflies, with their gentle swooping from flower to flower, are hard not to love. Not only are they beautiful to watch, butterflies also have the incredible ability to pollinate plants, just like bees, which is essential to crop growth and food production. Unfortunately, Monarch butterflies, which undertake a cross-country migration every year from Canada and the U.S. to Mexico, are in danger of extinction.
Due to the decline in milkweed, the plant where monarchs lay their eggs and which serves as the only food source for caterpillars, monarch populations are rapidly dropping. Their population has been cut by a staggering 96.5 percent over the last few decades. This is dangerous considering the important role monarchs play in balancing our ecosystems.
Given the dire situation monarchs face, many people have stepped up to help rebuild their populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also recognizes the need to save monarchs and has put $3.2 million into a partnership to aid in conservation efforts. Similarly, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Services invested $4 million to save monarch populations.
Concerned citizens have also been taking everyday steps by planting native milkweed and other wildflowers in their home gardens to help attract monarchs. They’re also helping by not using pesticides in yards and only purchasing organic, non-GMO products where possible. But helping monarchs isn’t a task that’s been taken on by adults alone … meet 12-year-old Genevieve Leroux, who has inspired her local community of San Luis Obispo, California to join her in the fight to save the monarchs.
In 2016, Genevieve heard British primatologist and anthropologist, Dr. Jane Goodall, give a lecture at the Wildlife Conservation Expo. Genevieve was inspired by the talk and became an advocate for the Western Migratory Monarch Butterfly. She even convinced her mayor, Heidi Harmon, to encourage the city of San Luis Obispo (SLO) to get involved saving monarchs.
Harmon, in turn, met with Bob Hill, SLO’s Natural Resource Manager and Dr. Francis Villablanca, CalPoly’s Monarch Alert head researcher, to formulate action that would work for their region. The California Western Migratory Monarch Butterfly overwintering population has declined by 74 percent, according to Xerces Society. If steps aren’t taken to save the monarch butterfly, they will experience a quasi-extinction (in other words, a population collapse) in the next 20 years.
Thanks to efforts by advocates such as Genevieve, SLO County now provides a migratory route for monarchs heading south, as well as 39 separate overwintering sites. Genevieve and Mayor Harmon are dedicated to educating the citizens of SLO about why saving monarchs are important and what citizens can do to help the species.
Genevieve wants to share her activism in hopes of inspiring other young people who also want to help the monarch butterfly. Want to join Genevieve in her mission? You can through Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoot’s one-click campaign Helping Migratory Species.
How You Can Help
Want to take your activism for monarch butterflies a step further? There are many things you can do TODAY to help! One of the best steps you can take is to plant milkweed native to your area to promote biodiversity and enable the natural migration pattern of the monarch butterflies.
Another way to help monarchs is to build a monarch waystation. These are habitats that allow monarch butterflies to lay their eggs. You can order the seeds to build your waystation here.
In addition to Genevieve’s efforts, there are many organizations dedicated to helping monarch populations, such as Save Our Monarchs and Monarch Watch. Check them out and see how you can support their efforts!
Image Source: Roots and Shoots