One of our favorite invertebrates is the monarch butterfly, which can be found seasonally here in Colorado. Due to habitat loss, shifting climate and unfavorable environmental conditions, the monarch has decreased by approximately 1 billion individuals over the last 15 years (http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/invertebrates/pdfs/Monarch_ESA_Petition.pdf; The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service).
While Colorado is not a major thoroughfare for migrating monarchs, we do have a native population that we can support while they are present during the summer and early fall. Butterfly Pavilion is a leading resouce in making strides to bolster Colorado and U.S. monarch populations through educating the public on monarchs and their habitats and leading butterfly-centered citizen science projects such as the Colorado Butterfly Monitoring Network where all Colorado native butterflies are tracked with a specific focus on Monarch trends. In addition, Butterfly Pavilion provides milkweed sales to the public and assists local communities and municipalities in native habitat restoration.
What can Coloradoans do to support monarchs?
To start, avoid using insecticides and herbicides in your gardens. These chemicals can be harmful to butterflies and the plants on which they rely. Another important step you can take is to plant native milkweed and other natives, as well as nectaring plants, to help support the habitat of our monarchs and other Colorado butterflies. Butterfly Pavilion holds an annual plant sale where our horticulture department sells milkweed and other natives that bloom late in the season when monarch butterflies are migrating through our state. These sales culminate on our Plant Conservation Day celebration, Bloomapalooza, held in May. To take your efforts a step further you can get involved in Butterfly Pavilion’s Colorado Butterfly Monitoring Network, Monarch Watch or Monarch Larvae Monitoring Network. These projects will ultimately allow us to better understand the trends and fluctuations in butterfly populations.
It is our hope through the concerted efforts of Butterfly Pavilion and invested community members that we will continue to enjoy the beauty of monarch butterflies today and well into the future.