Each fall, as the days shorten and the temperatures decrease, monarchs begin their migration southbound for Mexico. These beloved butterflies are widely recognized for their vibrant orange wings and white spots; however, they provide an invaluable service far beyond their beauty: pollination. Unfortunately, monarch populations, along with many other native pollinators, are stressed and have been facing decline due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and a changing climate.
What is pollination and why is it so important?
According to the MSU Extension, pollination is the transfer of pollen from the male structure of a flower to the female structure of a different flower. Fertilization cannot occur without a flower first being pollinated. Even further, fruit and seed production depends on fertilization. In fact, 1/3 of all agricultural output depends on pollinators, from your local fruits to your favorite vegetables (nrcs.usda.gov). The transfer of pollen is vital for healthy and productive native ecosystems.
This summer, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) designated the monarch butterfly as endangered. Although this designation sounds the alarm, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to change the status of the butterfly to endangered within the Endangered Species Act.
Don’t fret yet! There are several things you can do in your own backyard to help monarchs and other pollinators.
Plant milkweed in your yard or community.
Milkweed is the ONLY plant monarch caterpillars can eat and it supports this species from larvae to egg-laying adult. There are 11 milkweed species native to Michigan and it is crucial to this species survival!
Plant other native nectar plants.
This will help to create additional pollinator habitat. Need help getting started? Watch this video on how to create a monarch habitat: monarchdefenders.org/gardens
Not sure where to find native plants? Stop by the Ottawa Conservation District’s Fall Native Plant Sale! For more information, visit: Native Plant Sale | Ottawa County Conservation District (ottawacd.org)
Share information and get people talking!
For example, you can create and register your pollinator habitat for the Monarch Watch Monarch Waystation Program. As of August 20, 2022, there have been 40,704 Monarch Waystation habitats registered. Join in on the action!
Visit this link: monarchjointventure.org/donate
Did you know?
- Pollinators help support biodiversity! The population of pollinators in an area can be indicative of the overall health of an ecosystem.
- In the U.S., pollination produces nearly $20 billion worth of products annually
- Over 200,000 species of animals act as pollinators; around 1,000 of those are hummingbirds, bats, and small mammals.
- Experts predict 40-70% of pollinators could go extinct if action is not taken to allow them to move through the landscape.