JACKSONVILLE, Fla. Monarch butterfly populations have been declining and the species is close to being endangered, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agencys website details that over the past two decades, monarch numbers in North America have fallen, prompting federal wildlife officials to join state agencies, tribes, other federal agencies, and non-government groups to identify threats to the monarch and take steps to conserve them throughout their range.
In December 2020, after an extensive status assessment of the monarch butterfly, U.S. Fish and Wildlife determined that listing the monarch under the Endangered Species Act is warranted but precluded at this time by higher priority listing actions. With this finding, the monarch butterfly becomes a candidate for listing; they will review its status each year until we are able to begin developing a proposal to list the monarch. In other words, the butterfly qualifies for endangered status, but other species are more dire at this time for it to make the list.
Create a butterfly garden
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service points out the butterflies are a member of the pollinators group, which plays an important role in keeping our entire ecosystem healthy. Pollinators have lost much of their habitat, so a butterfly garden, or pollinator garden, can greatly help the species. You can check out a step-by-step guide from U.S. Fish and Wildlife by clicking here...
Choosing your location
While flowering plants can grow in both shady and sunny locations, consider your audience. Butterflies and other pollinators like to bask in the sun and some of their favorite wildflowers grow best in full or partial sun with some protection from the wind.
Identifying soil type and sunlight
Take a look at your soil - is it sandy and well-drained or more clay-like and wet? You can turn over a test patch or check out the soil mapper for your county to learn more. Your soil type and the amount of sunlight it gets will help determine the kinds of plants you can grow.
Choosing Your Plants
Research which varieties of milkweed and wildflowers are native to your area and do well in your soil and sunlight conditions. Native plants are the ideal choice, because they require less maintenance and tend to be heartier. Find a nursery that specializes in native plants near you - theyll be familiar with plants that are meant to thrive in your part of the country. Its essential to choose plants that have not been treated with pesticides, insecticides or neonicotinoids. Youll also want to focus on selecting perennials to ensure your plants come back each year and dont require a lot of maintenance.
Remember to think about more than just the summer growing season. Pollinators need nectar early in the spring, throughout the summer and even into the fall. Choosing plants that bloom at different times will help you create a bright and colorful garden that both you and pollinators will love for months!
Seeds vs. Plants
Once youve identified your plant species, youll need to decide whether to use seeds or start with small plants. While both are good options, your choice will depend on your timeline and budget. Seeds are more economical, especially for larger gardens, but will require more time. If youre using seeds, plan on dispersing them the fall or late winter ahead of your summer growing season. This gives the seeds time to germinate. Nursery-started plants cost more, but will generally give you a quick return on your investment and bring pollinators into your yard during the same growing season.
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