With wings of vivid orange, black and gold, monarch butterflies are a natural treasure we’ll lose if we’re not careful.
Monarch numbers have dropped as much as 90 percent over the past 20 years. Besides insecticides, the biggest reason is the destruction of the milkweed these migrating butterflies lay their eggs on. Many consider it a weed and kill it with herbicides. When it’s all gone, the monarchs are doomed!
Sometimes native milkweeds are replaced with tropical milkweed, which flowers year-round in warm climates. According to Kenneth Setzer of Fairchild Tropical Garden in Miami, its orange and yellow blooms can induce migrators to cut short their journeys.
South Florida’s native, non-migrating population of monarchs has been infected with a vicious parasite. When migrating monarchs hang out on tropical milkweed, they can get infected and spread the bug. This is a lot going against an insect that flies as far as northern Canada to Mexico.
Florida has more than 20 native species of milkweed, but only three are available in nurseries, according to the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.
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PLANT NATIVE MILKWEED
If there is space for it on your family’s property or on your school’s property, get permission to plant native milkweed. To find out which milkweed is native to your area, use this awesome plant finder at Florida Native Plant Society.
Do not plant tropical milkweed north of Orlando. If you already have some, trim it back to about six inches throughout fall and winter.
ASK YOUR PARKS TO PLANT NATIVE MILKWEED
Contact your city, county and state park administrators and ask them to plant NATIVE milkweed in the parks to help sustain monarch butterfly populations.
If they aren’t receptive, start a petition drive.
DISCOURAGE THE USE OF HERBICIDES AND INSECTICIDES
Research alternatives for your yard, schools and neighborhood.
BUY GMO-FREE PRODUCTS
Support agriculture that doesn’t poison our eco-systems.