Thursday, October 22, 2015

Drought-plagued residents replacing lawns with milkweed are helping revive monarch butterflies

The drought out West could help revive monarch butterfly populations, Gillian Flaccus reports for The Associated Press. "Suburban homeowners ripping out thirsty lawns are dotting their new drought-tolerant landscapes with milkweed native to California's deserts and chaparral—plants that have the potential to help save water and monarchs at the same time because the female monarch will only lay her eggs on milkweed."

Monarch numbers are estimated to have fallen by 90 percent in recent years after reaching 1 billion in 1996. Insecticides are largely blamed for the deaths. Last month the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced the first round of grants totaling $3.3 million from its recently launched Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund.

A small portion of the millions of monarch butterflies that travel from the eastern and central U.S. and Canada to Mexico each winter travel through the western U.S. to winter along California's Central Coast, Flaccus writes. Tom Merriman, who sells native plants in California, said he didn't sell any milkweed—the main source of food for monarch butterflies—five years ago but has sold more than 14,000 plants this summer, shipping throughout California, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. (Read more)

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