Migrating monarchs are endangered, so now what? How planting milkweed can help save them

SAN ANTONIO – The migratory monarch butterfly, a sub species of the monarch, is known for migrating from Canada to Mexico every Fall and is now endangered, just two steps away from extinction.

The population has declined by 90% in the past two decades, due to climate change and pesticides, according to federal scientists.

So what can be done to help?

Well, plant more milkweed. Milkweed is the monarch’s prime food source. Extreme weather events and pesticide use has killed a massive amount of the natural occurring milkweed found in North America.

It’s why since 2000, the Live Monarch Foundation has made it its mission to send out thousands of free seeds across the country.

“You’re the one who’s going to take the seed and plant it,” Christopher Singer, executive director of the Live Monarch Foundation said.

“I can’t plant 10,000 gardens every month, but I can give people the seeds to make sure that they can plant 10,000 gardens and do that to start.”

A post from the foundation goes viral every couple of years and Singer said if you send one, self-addressed, stamped envelope to Live Monarch, the foundation will send you free seeds back via mail.

And since the news broke about monarchs being endangered, they are getting thousands of requests daily.

“There’s always somebody asking for free seeds every day in the mail, but just a little bit,” Singer said. “And then on Friday, it looks like it’s about 50 to 100 times that volume.”

Singer is asking for people to go to their website instead of sending them envelopes and make a small donation for the seeds. An online order will help their small staff of less than five people keep up with the requests.

“Let’s save on postage and let’s save on trees,” Singer said. “Don’t cut down a whole forest to send us 10,000 envelopes when you can send a few. So we try to get that message out, too.”

Based on your area, they send native milkweed seeds. In South Texas, you can start planting those seeds now, so they can get their roots in place by the end of fall. The milkweed will go dormant in the winter, but come spring and the following fall they will be ready for those migrating monarchs.

Singer said rather than just throwing them in a field make sure to plant the seeds under half an inch to an inch of soil, water often and cover in mulch. Also avoid using pesticides and deet in your garden because this can kill monarchs.

If you go to a nursery, you will most likely only find grown tropical milkweed, which grows well in San Antonio, however it is not native.

Singer said he rather not discriminate against milkweeds, because the more plentiful the better. Click here for a great list of native milkweeds that also grow well here.

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