Monarchs MIA

Maybe we can help.


The subject: Monarch butterflies, specifically our Western Monarchs.


The problem: the numbers of these vibrant orange Western Monarchs are down, way, way down, according to various reports as much as 99%! The possible causes: habitat destruction or loss due to construction, disease, pesticide exposure, climate change. Whatever, the result is that milkweed plants, a life line vital to monarchs are also disappearing. Milkweed is where the butterflies, who journey from the Rocky Mountains and south from Oregon and Idaho, overwinter in our area from October to March. Milkweed is where they land to lay their eggs and what their very hungry hatched caterpillars eat.


The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the California Department of Parks and Recreation plus other environmentalist organizations, on alert, are responding with actions for land managers across the state. The goal is to plant some 30,000 milkweed plants over 600 acres statewide. We the public are invited to do our bit to help start recovery efforts by planting milkweed in our gardens. Of course this will take time for the milkweed to grow. But every effort will help these Monarch butterflies who are on the wait list for the endangered species designation because, sadly, so many others species are also vanishing. Monarchs may be included in 2024.

Photo Ed Cerny, Beaverkill, N.Y.

Meanwhile, milkweed for your garden. It’s not just any milkweed. Take care to select helpful varieties. Skip the tropical milkweed, not native to California, that confuses butterflies because it does not die out in the winter and, worse, it may carry disease. Here are a few suggested plants: Asclepias california (deep pink-colored flowers), Asclepias eriocarpa (creamy-white flowers and broad leaves), Asclepias fascicularis (white flowers and narrow leaves). To further buoy the butterfly population you can add early and late blooming native flowering plants for the spring and fall migrations.


A reminder: check to be sure your plants from nurseries are pesticide-free and limit your pesticide use.