A Leg Up for Monarchs

It’s no secret that monarchs are struggling to survive in our rapidly changing world. We’ve seen numbers drop more than seventy-five percent in the past twenty 20 years. Although we saw a small uptick this year in monarchs that winter in Mexico, they are not out of the woods yet, not by a long stretch.

Monarchs are one of the great iconic, stately, wonders of nature (not talking about William and Kate here, folks, although I’m sure they’re lovely too). Preventing extinction of this miraculous pollinator is paramount; more than stunning, they contribute to the health of our planet.

The plight that these extraordinary animals face, whether they are east or west of the Rockies, is monumental, and can be a valuable teaching tool for children. The epic migration they undertake, one of the wonders of our world, is perilous and becoming more so as their food sources en route disappear.

Involve your kids in saving the monarchs and you’ll teach them a variety of valuable skills in the process. empathy, persistence, teamwork, problem solving are but a few.


a monarch caterpillar my kids named fatty


What can we do to help?

Fortunately, there is a lot that we can do to give monarchs a leg up. If you undertake even one of these suggestions with your kids, your kids will no doubt carry the torch for future generations (and learn a ton to boot).

  1. Plant milkweed in your yard, school garden, anywhere you can. Monarch caterpillars ONLY eat milkweed and milkweed plants are rapidly disappearing in North America. You can get free seed packets from the Save Our Monarchs Foundation. Keep in mind that milkweed is poisonous to humans so read up on the plant and take any necessary precautions. Different varieties thrive in different regions, so make sure you’re planting the best variety for your region.
  2. Plant a butterfly garden. Butterflies feed on nectar from various plants. Take a trip to your local nursery and ask them what native species you can plant to attract monarch butterflies to your yard and give them sustenance for the long journey.
  3. Make or buy a butterfly feederA quick Google or Pinterest search turns up a ton of options here, some as simple as a plate of rotting fruit set outside. Another option is to wet brightly colored sponge squares with a sugar water mixture (1:4 sugar/water ratio) that has been boiled and cooled.

We’re all short on time, and we’re bombarded daily with opportunities to do something to help or improve the world around us. Some days it overwhelms me–pretty sure I’m not alone in that. So if planting a garden is too ambitious, make it simple. The next time you’re about to toss out the too-mushy-to-eat watermelon from last weekend’s cookout put it on a plate and set it outside instead. You might make a monarch’s day.


monarch crossing Lake Michigan




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