Each year, millions of monarch butterflies undertake an amazing journey to Mexico in the fall, and back north in the spring. This migration has become famous in recent years, especially as these migratory butterflies have suffered a severe population decline. Butterfly gardeners all over the country have been working to restore the habitat that migrating monarchs need. This is an excellent step, but there are actually many other migratory butterflies that can use your help too.
There are a few steps you can take to help butterflies on the move. Plant their native host plants (shown below) to help support new generations each year. Also add early and late-blooming nectar plants to your garden to give them the energy they need as they move each spring and fall. Never use pesticides in your garden, as those kill all bugs indiscriminately. Provide shelter for insects, like brush piles, dead tree snags, or rock piles. (Avoid so-called “butterfly houses,” which usually just turn into wasp nests.)
Citizen science projects like the Habitat Network are designed to help you. This free program is a joint project of the Nature Conservancy and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Start by using the site to map your yard, indicating all the trees, plants, and wildlife features you currently have. Then use the tools on the site to set goals and plan improvements, like adding host plants for butterflies or berry-producing plants for birds. You can even share your experiences with others nearby using the social network feature. It’s an easy and fun way to support migratory butterflies and all the other wildlife in your area.
Here are some of the migratory butterflies you can help with your actions. Click each to learn more about the species.
Learn more about migratory insects and how your garden can help them here.