Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Phillip Elden on Monarch Butterflies

Phillip Elden

Phillip Elden grew up chasing butterflies in his backyard. As one of his core memories, he suspects that watching Monarchs flutter around the milkweed is what originally planted the seeds of conservation in this well-known nature advocate’s mind. But, he says that Monarch butterflies may be fluttering toward extinction. 
According to Phillip Elden, in 2020, researchers counted less than 2000 Monarch butterflies migrating from California to Mexico. This is a huge drop-off from the tens of thousands that would’ve made the journey in the 1980s. Because of climate change and habitat loss, Monarch butterflies are experiencing a sharp and alarming decline. 

Phillip Elden says that monarch butterflies have the most sophisticated migration pattern known to man. They have evolved to know exactly when to leave Canada and arrive in Mexico to ensure their next generation lives on. Monarch butterflies travel more than 2500 miles every year from the northern US and Canada down to central Mexico. Alarmingly, numbers have dwindled because of human interference. 
Mexican deforestation, herbicide use, and the intentional destruction of the milkweed plant – where monarchs lay their eggs – have contributed to the significant depopulation. 
Phillip Elden explains that people that would like to help restore the monarch population need only to plant a single square foot of wildflowers in their yard. Doing so will benefit not only the butterflies but also other pollinators, such as bees and hummingbirds. Another way to help is to “adopt” a monarch butterfly. The World Wildlife Fund and other organizations happily accept donations to help restore Monarch populations. 
Growing Milkweed 
You can purchase milkweed at your local garden shop. Make sure to find healthy plants with a strong root system. To plant, dig a hole as deep as the ball of the plant, and water often. Most milkweed grows well in average soil and all varieties can handle hot, humid conditions.