A Need for Milkweed

Posted December 21, 2020 by David Jenike

Do you have the power to save a species?  Yes!!!

In a press release on Tuesday, December 15th, 2020 the United States Fish and Wildlife Services ruled that the listing of the Monarch Butterfly as a threatened or endangered species was warranted but precluded by work on other higher priority listings.  Simply put, Monarchs need protection but the USFWS doesn’t have the resources to act.


While this is a disappointment to some it is a clear call to action to all.  What’s needed?  Milkweed and other plants for pollinators are the solution!

The mesmerizing monarch butterfly is truly one of North America’s most spectacular wildlife stories.  Each year there are four generations of monarchs.  The first three generations live for around 4 weeks while the fourth “super” generation lives for 6 to 8 months.  In the eastern United States, it is this generation that migrates thousands of miles to over winter in forests just a day’s drive from Mexico City.  This spectacular feat makes monarchs the only known multigenerational migrant.  No one butterfly makes the full roundtrip journey but instead it takes four generations!!

We have seen a steady decline in monarchs since the 1990s, largely as a result of the increased use of pesticides and a reduction in habitat, which is additionally complicated by climate change.  Monarchs’ future depends on three things: 1) protection of their wintering roost sites, 2) abundant milkweed which the caterpillars are solely dependent upon, 3) other nectar plants that fuel the monarch’s migration.

This is where you come into the picture.  You can invite these beautiful animals to your home, your garden, your flower box.  All you have to do is plant milkweed and other nectar plants for pollinators.  How cool would it be share in the success of saving a species?  Imagine the excitement of finding a monarch caterpillar munching on the underside of milkweed leaf, like one of our Zoo members did after bringing home a milkweed plant from a trip to the Zoo.

Your Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden will be your conservation partner to help spark the monarch’s recovery.  Through the Zoo’s Plants for Pollinator program and our native plant sales you can transform a piece of your garden to welcome monarchs and other pollinators.  Here’s all you have to do:

Step One: Make the commitment to help the monarch

Step Two: Plant milkweed and other pollinator plants in the Spring.  (Check-out the Zoo’s native plant sales).

Step Three: Register your garden with the Zoo’s Plants for Pollinator program and together we can make a difference for Monarchs!

Step Four:  Have FUN!! Explore the nature in you own back yard and share the stories!