The Monarch Butterfly Population Decline and How Planting Milkweed Helps

According to research by the University of Florida, the Florida monarch butterfly population in North Central Florida has declined since 2005.

Butterflies lay hundreds of eggs on milkweed over their lifespan, but just over 2 percent of eggs survive to become fully-grown caterpillars. The decline could be due to shrinking milkweed populations. One issue is spraying milkweed populations with glyphosate, an herbicide often applied to agricultural fields to eliminate weeds. Milkweed is the monarch's host plant. Less milkweed means less habitat for monarchs.

What's needed are patches of native vegetation and nectar sources without pesticides. It's not just for monarchs but all pollinators.

Florida is an important stopover for monarchs, and they rely on Florida for its abundance of milkweed and warm climate to lay the eggs that will help replenish the eastern population in the U.S.

Florida is home to about 21 native species of milkweed. Pesticide-free native milkweed populations in Florida yards and on roadsides are a step in the right direction to protect monarchs. Some recommended milkweed species are either Asclepias incarnata, also called swamp milkweed, or Asclepias tuberosa, commonly known as butterfly weed. Asclepias humistrata, or pinewoods milkweed, is also common throughout northern Florida.

One way you can get involved in helping save the Monarchs is by supporting your local Florida Native Plant Society and purchasing milkweed at local plant sales:

1.  With gorgeous pink flowers, Swamp Milkweed is Monarch butterflies' favorite host plant.

2. Swamp Milkweed will produce clusters of beautiful pink flowers. The plants grow to a mature height of about 36 to 60 inches tall. 

3. Buttery Milkweed, also known as "Butterfly Weed," will produce beautiful clusters of orange flowers.

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