Butterflies aren’t just one of the world’s most beautiful insects, they are an important part of a healthy ecosystem. As part of the food chain, butterflies are a tasty snack for birds and bats and play a role in flower pollination. Unfortunately, butterfly populations are also at risk due to environmental pressures like drought and habitat loss. The good news? We can all take small actions that will help ensure butterfly survival. Here are five ways you can save the butterflies:
- Buy organic produce and avoid genetically engineered foods as much as possible. Pesticides and insecticides kill the plants that butterflies depend on for food. Genetically engineered foods are resistant to pesticides, allowing farmers to apply much more pesticide to their crops. For monarch butterflies, that resulted in an 81% drop in reproduction from 1999-2010.
- Create butterfly habitat in your yard. Butterflies need three things to thrive: food, water, and a safe space to lay eggs. All butterflies have a special host plant, where they deposit their eggs and on which the caterpillars will feed. For monarch butterflies, that plant is milkweed, and it’s easy to grow. Be sure to find out which variety of milkweed is native to your area, as that will be the best food for local butterflies.
- Learn about endangered butterflies in your area. Monarchs, with their vibrant hues and phenomenal migrations are the poster children of threatened butterflies, but there are several species in serious danger. The Karner Blue Butterfly thrives on wild lupine and has made a comeback in recent years thanks to conservation efforts between citizens, local government, and nonprofit organizations.
- City dweller? No problem—create a monarch butterfly waystation by growing container gardens on balconies, rooftops, and stoops. Butterfly gardens are an excellent path to interdisciplinary learning for children and school gardens can play an important part in creating butterfly sanctuaries in dense urban environments.
- Butterfly tourism is a thing! Monarch butterflies complete an astounding 3,000 mile-long migration from the U.S. and Canada to winter in the fir tree forests of central Mexico. Visitors to the Monarch Butterfly Preserves provide financial support to the ongoing stewardship of these reserves. Learn more about planning your trip here.