19 Sep How to Support Monarchs and Other Beneficial Insects
Insects are in trouble throughout the world. And as David James said at our Music and Monarchs event: “About 98 percent of insects are beneficial or benign.” Only about 2 percent are considered pests.
The monarch is one of the most iconic and beautiful insects we’ve got. And this year the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) named Monarchs a “red-listed” or endangered species. Since the 1980s, we’ve lost over 99 percent of western monarchs. Many stressors have caused this decline: habitat loss and degradation, pesticides, and climate change. We don’t have quick fixes for such large and complex forces, but we can take individual and collective action to avoid a collapse of this iconic butterfly while also supporting other beneficial insects — all those pollinators and pest-eaters that help our gardens and crops grow while also enriching life on our planet.
The below is adapted from the Xerces Society’s Western Monarch Call to Action and our own flyer, 5 Ways You Can Support Western Monarchs.
How to Support Western Monarch Butterflies and Other Beneficial Insects
Plant native nectar plants, especially milkweed.
- Plant flowering species with a variety of bloom times.
- For planting suggestions, see Washington Native Plant Society (wnps.org) and Xerces Society (xerces.org) websites.
- Create a “Monarch Waystation”! A Waystation helps provide the resources that Monarchs need on their long journey – like food, shelter, and water. Waystations will also be valuable for other pollinators. And they’re also comfortable and pretty spaces for humans to occupy. Parks, schools, community centers, and businesses can be great places to do this.
- Plant milkweed! Contact CCC if you’re looking for native milkweed seeds.
Why? Caterpillars, or the larval stage of monarchs, depend on milkweed, their only host plant. Adult monarchs depend on diverse nectar sources during all stages of the year, from spring and summer breeding to fall migration and overwintering.
Protect Monarchs from pesticides.
- Stop using insecticides, especially neonicotinoids (“neonics”), and try to avoid buying plants pre-sown with them.
- For tips on handling pests and weeds without using harmful chemicals, see the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (pesticide.org) and Beyond Pesticides (beyondpesticides.org).
Why? Recent research suggests that neonicotinoids, which are systemic insecticides, are likely playing a significant role in pollinator declines. Because plants absorb these insecticides as they grow, chemicals become distributed throughout plant tissues, including leaves, flowers, and nectar. Imidacloprid, the most common neonic, is one of the most widely used insecticides in the world.
Restore habitat beyond backyards.
- Support local conservation efforts (like CCC!) that work to connect open-space landscapes and protect large areas of pollinator habitat.
Why? Western monarchs migrate vast distances – from the Northwest to the Pacific coast of California or Baja, Mexico, where they overwinter. They need sustenance throughout this journey.
Volunteer for research.
- Get involved with monarch rearing and survey efforts.
- Report your monarch and milkweed sightings to the Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper (monarchmilkweedmapper.org)
Why? To improve conservation efforts, we need to answer key questions about monarch migration, pesticide impacts, and milkweed growth.
Spread the word.
- Tell friends, neighbors, and co-workers about the need for urgent restoration work.
- Use the hashtag #SaveWesternMonarchs on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to raise awareness.
Why? Stories are powerful. Sharing one might have an unexpected impact. Ever heard of the “butterfly effect”?
Some Other Resources
Here is a list of regional and local resources to help you support pollinator health, whether you want to plant a few plants on an apartment patio or landscape many acres.
Pollinator and Monarch Support
- Xerces Society (xerces.org) – Go to place for all resources on protecting pollinators – from plant lists to pesticide info to ways to get involved in restoration and conservation.
- Monarch Watch (MonarchWatch.org) – Great resource for all things Monarch-related, including current research, tracking, and conservation info.
- “Monarch Butterflies of the Pacific NW” Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/MonarchButterfliesInThePacificNorthwest) – the group for local Monarch news and updates, curated by David James.
- USDA’s Plants for Pollinators in the Inland Northwest: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_PLANTMATERIALS/publications/wapmctn11733.pdf
- Washington State University Master Gardener Program – Yakima: https://extension.wsu.edu/yakima/home-garden/master-gardeners/become-a-master-gardener/
- Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (pesticide.org) – Great info on pesticide prevention, alternatives, and Integrated Pest Management
- Monarch Nectar Plants: Inland Northwest Region: region: https://xerces.org/publications/plant-lists/monarch-nectar-plants-inland-northwest.
- Washington Native Plants Society “Gardening with Natives” page: https://www.wnps.org/native-gardening
- Heritage Gardens of the Columbia Basin: https://www.hgcd.info/
REGIONAL PLANT SOURCES
Native Plant Nurseries and Sales in Central WA
- Derby Canyon Natives – Peshastin, WA
- Plants available in Spring and Fall.
- TapTeal Natives – Kennewick, WA
- Source of seeds and plants
- North Yakima Conservation District
- Spring and Fall Plant sales
- Washington Native Plant Society Plant Sales – Columbia Basin Fall Plant Sale
- Gardening for Butterflies, by the Xerces Society: https://xerces.org/publications/books/gardening-for-butterflies
- Farming with Native Beneficial Insects, by the Xerces Society: https://xerces.org/publications/books/farming-with-native-beneficial-insects
- Attracting Native Pollinators, by the Xerces Society: https://xerces.org/publications/books/farming-with-native-beneficial-insects
Plant Identification and Info
- Flora of the Pacific Northwest, by Leo Hitchcock and Arthur Cronquist
- Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest, by Mark Turner and Phyllis Gustafson
- Plants of the Inland Northwest and Southern Interior British Columbia, by Roberta Parish and Ray Coupé, and Dennis Lloyd
- Sagebrush Country: A Wildflower Sanctuary, by Ronald J Taylor.
- Northwest Weeds: The Ugly and Beautiful Villains of Fields, Gardens and Roadsides, by Ronald J. Taylor
Insect Identification and Info
- Butterflies of the Pacific Northwest, by Robert Michael Pyle and Caitlin C. Labar
- Life Histories of Cascadia Butterflies, by David James
- Pacific Northwest Insects, by Merrill A. Peterson