The plight of the beloved Monarch butterfly was emphasized in a recent story by Nara Schoenberg, in the Chicago Tribune: Field Museum researchers enlist hundreds of home gardeners in fight to save the iconic monarch butterfly. The article describes a four-year research effort by the Field Museum to monitor and track monarchs in our area, with the help of 400 home gardeners.
Monarch butterflies depend on Milkweed plants for their survival. The article estimates that the Eastern monarch population is down by more than 80% since the 1990s, likely due in part to the removal of Milkweed plants for agriculture.
Museum researchers Karen Klinger and Aster Hasle estimate that roughly 15.3 million milkweed plants are growing in the Chicago area, and that if a tiny portion (2%) of private green space were to be devoted to milkweeds, that number could increase by another 1.4 million plants. The focus of their research is to learn the extent to which home gardens, including potted plants on balconies, could impact the future of the Monarch population. They believe that the potential for impact is substantial: up to a third of the milkweed needed to stabilize the monarch population can be provided within urban areas!
Will we be able to save the Monarchs from extinction by planting more Milkweeds in our own gardens? “Twelve milkweeds is better than one,” Klinger said, “but one milkweed is better than none.”