Important Pollinator: The Monarch Butterfly

The monarch butterfly is not considered federally endangered yet, however, studies have shown that the monarch populations are declining and are in need of protection. The monarch is commonly considered the “poster child” for pollinator awareness to help bring attention to the general decline of pollinators and insects.

The monarch is a beautiful butterfly that is identified by its large size and its bright orange wings with black stripes. White polka-dots line the wing margins and dot the body of the butterfly. To distinguish a male monarch from the females, note that the males have a black dot on the hind wings while the females do not. The adults will feed on a variety of flowers but the monarch caterpillar solely feeds on milkweed plants.

The monarch is a migrating butterfly that migrates all over the North American continent. In the summer they migrate as far north as Canada having 4-5 broods and the last brood then makes the great migration back to the Oyamel fir forests of upper Mexico where they overwinter. These forests are protected and known as the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.

The reserve, however, is being threatened due to pressures from illegal logging facilitated by large avocado industries and climate pressures due to climate change. While the latest decline in the monarch population is more likely the result of poor weather during migration, habitat loss due to excess pesticide use and urban or agricultural sprawl have also contributed to their decline.

With native plants and gardening growing in popularity, the monarch and other pollinators have a great chance at coming back from decline. You can help by planting milkweed in your yard and sharing on social media or with friends about the importance of conservation. Try checking to see if your avocados were sourced from a locally owned business before buying them and always look for more sustainable ways of living.

From our friends at the North Carolina Wildlife Federation.

 

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