Everyone’s favorite pollinator, butterflies are one of the most beautiful and mystical of our insect friends. However, many of us may look around this summer and wonder, “where did the Butterflies go? What is happening to these winged creatures?”
Today, we’ll answer some of your questions about what’s going on with our pollinator friends, and what we can do to help.
Where Did the Butterflies Go?
It’s true that some butterflies, such as the iconic monarch butterfly “overwinter,” or migrate to warmer climates during older months. However in recent years the population of overwintering monarch butterflies has decreased more than 80% from the past two decades.
In fact, the situation for monarchs is so dire, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has estimated up to an 80% probability of extinction for Eastern Monarchs, and a 96-100% for Western Monarchs.
The truth is that many pollinators are facing a similar fate. Habitat loss and pesticide use are rampant in the United States. Pesticide use and habitat loss disrupt butterfly migration and mating patterns, resulting in fewer and fewer insects each year.
Filling our gardens with non-native species is another serious problem for beneficial insects. For centuries, gardeners have imported and planted foreign plants that have become invasive. They provide no habitat or food for our native butterflies, and they choke out the beloved native species that do provide these crucial resources for wildlife.
Why Butterflies are Important
Around one-third of all plants require pollination to set fruit– that includes our favorite mouth watering fruits and veggies, and show stopping flowers! Butterflies are important for their role as pollinators, and natural pest controllers.
Butterflies are also indicators of a healthy ecosystem. Where there are butterflies, there are likely to be other beneficial insects that protect our gardens.
In addition, they’re incredibly important to the food chain. In all cycles of life– egg, larvae, pupae, adult– butterflies are delicacies for various other animals including birds and bats. This rich biodiversity helps to support all of life on Earth!
Finally, we’d be remiss not to mention the aesthetic value of butterflies. It’s hard to put a price on the value of nature’s beauty. Watching their colorful, delicate wings float through a spring or summer day provides innate value to the human experience. Natural beauty is naturally healing, and we could all use a little more of both these days.
How to Help Butterflies
There are so many ways that our communities can band together to help the butterflies. And many of these start in our gardens.
Make a commitment to having a toxic-free garden. Ditch the pesticides and herbicides that kill pollinators, and destroy their food and habitat. Check out our posts on eco-friendly biocides and killing weeds naturally for help eliminating these toxic chemicals!
Consider planting a pollinator garden in your yard or neighborhood. Fill it with milkweeds, dill, fennel, spicebush, and other precious (native) plants the butterflies love. Set a neighborhood challenge by seeing if you can create a summertime “butterfly hotspot”!
There are ways to protect the pollinators that extend beyond our gardens as well. Migratory butterflies often rely on forested habitats to overwinter. However, this habitat is threatened by illegal logging practices. Try purchasing Forest Stewardship Council (or FSC) certified wood and paper products wherever possible. This ensures our paper products are produced sustainably, without causing long-term damage to the environment.
Another way to help all pollinators is to avoid purchasing “Genetically Engineered” foods. These plants are bred to be resistant to glyphosate, meaning they are sprayed with large amounts of the pesticides and herbicides that kill pollinators and their habitats.
Butterflies are a beautiful and wonderful part of living here on Earth. To see them go forever would be a tragedy for both our ecosystems and our own human experience. Luckily, there are things we can do that make a difference. Spread the word about the butterflies and how to save them. Share this post on social media, or send it out! The best way to make change is to spread awareness and inspire action.
Until Next Time,