(Photo: Xerces Society / Candace Fallon)

Butterflies are important pollinators, vital to the food chain, and exceedingly beautiful. However, one species—the Western Monarch—is in trouble.

In 1992, there were 1.2 million Western Monarch butterflies. But in November 2020, officials counted only 1,914 (!). This rapid decline is due to forest fires; habitat destruction; Tropical Milkweed, which is not a native California species; and harmful pesticides that kill these butterflies and the plants they eat. Further, the Western Monarch female only lays its eggs on Milkweed plants. Once hatched, the caterpillars only eat Milkweed. Because of these challenges, the Western Monarch Butterfly is now an endangered species.

Here’s how you can help this delicate creature:

  1. Remove Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica). This variety of Milkweed from the Caribbean has parasites that harm adult Western Monarchs. Plus it’s long blooming season confuses the butterflies on when to migrate.
  2. Plant California Milkweeds. In Valley Glen’s 91401 zip code, two local varieties of Milkweed will successfully feed hungry caterpillars: Narrow-leaf Milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) and Woollypod Milkweed (Asclespias eriocarpa). These plants die back in the winter signaling Western Monarchs to migrate.
  3. Plant butterfly–attracting plants. Unlike its caterpillars, adult Western Monarchs, as well as other butterfly species, eat nectar from a variety of plants including: California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum var. foliolosum); Red Buckwheat (Eriogonum grande v. rubescens); California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica); Deerweed (Acmispon glaber); California Goldenrod (Solidago velutina); Silver Lupine (Lupinus albifrons); and Seaside Daisy (Erigeron glaucus).
  4. Buy plants and/or seeds at local and organic nurseries like Theodore Payne www.theodorepayne.org, which will stock and sell California Milkweed plants in May.
  5. Avoid nationwide chains. Home Depot and Target carry plants that are sold throughout the country and don’t cater to our unique Southern California microclimate in Valley Glen.
  6. Plant in gardens and pots. These butterfly-attracting plants will grow in your home garden, in pots on your balcony or in containers near your front door.

On behalf of Western Monarchs, thank you Valley Glen!

(Photo: Xerces Society / Candace Fallon)

LA Times article about Monarchs and Native Milkweed