According to the National Wildlife Federation, the population of eastern monarch butterflies has decreased by 90% overall from its peak two decades ago (NWF, March 2018).
This majestic butterfly is currently on the verge of extinction, but there is much we can do to reverse this unfortunate trend.
With the autumn planting season approaching, I am writing to encourage you to make milkweed a part of your garden next spring by planting seeds now or before the ground freezes.
Spurge is the main source of nutrients for monarch butterfly caterpillars and is therefore essential for the species to survive. However, milkweed, which the monarchs’ caterpillars can safely graze on, is disappearing due to the spraying of pesticides and pruning by well-meaning gardeners or farmers. This has resulted in their species reaching critically low population levels.
There is much we can do to protect monarchs from this decline in their food source by planting milkweed in our own lawns and gardens. It may not seem like much, but I hope that local gardeners who plant milkweed will create a butterfly effect and inspire Freeborn County’s city officials, farmers and businesses to take the initiative.
Spurge seeds will need to hibernate in frozen ground (or in the fridge / freezer) before they can reach full maturity, so for best success it is recommended that the seeds be planted in the fall.
From now on, plan on planting milkweed seeds until the ground freezes. Milkweed seeds can be purchased locally from Albert Lea Seedhouse. Restore healthy spots of milkweed today and help create the butterfly effect that will save the monarch tomorrow.