Monarchs and pollinators
Saving the Monarch
The Monarch butterfly is a beautiful species; perhaps the most recognized of all butterflies and was once a common sight in Missouri. In addition to the aesthetics it brings, the Monarch is an important indicator species for the health of the eco-system, specifically an indicator of the status of pollinators and other invertebrates. Pollinators are vital to the production of healthy crops for food, fibers, edible oils, medicines, and other products. The commodities produced with the help of pollinators generate significant income for the agricultural economy. Pollinators are also essential components of the habitats and ecosystems that many other wild animals rely on for food and shelter.
Recent years have seen significant decrease in populations of pollinators; to such a degree that pollinators have become a national priority of many federal and state agencies and citizen groups. Last count shows that current Monarch population numbers (over-wintering) are less than 10% of the population level of 1998. The 90% decline in Monarch numbers is an indicator of an eco-system in trouble. Missouri 4-H wants to join in the fight to bring back the Monarchs.
Missouri 4-H is joining numerous other agencies and organizations and is launching an effort to save the Monarch butterfly and other pollinators. Won't you contribute to that effort as a 4-H club, project group, family or individual?
4-H Clubs, project groups, or 4-H members/families are strongly encouraged to get "hands on" in saving the Monarch by developing suitable habitat. Any 4-H group, member or family can establish habitat plots.
Things to do
Plant Monarch and pollinator habitat
Monarchs need milkweed! Known as a host plant, it is the only food source that the Monarch larval form (Monarch caterpillar) are able to survive on. Without milkweed Monarchs would not be able to survive. While there is a wide-variety of milkweed in North America, not all varieties are created equal. Make sure to conduct research on which milkweed species are native to your local area and are better able to support the Monarch.
Monarchs (beneficial to other pollinators) also need a variety of native nectar plants to survive in butterfly form! Plant your garden with a variety of nectar sources that bloom throughout the season to support breeding and migration. Further information and assistance on planting Monarch and pollinator gardens can be found from a variety of sources. Some of our topic picks are listed under resources.
Also contact your local Master Gardeners or Master Naturalists for expertise and assistance. Most should be glad to help. Your local University of Missouri Extension office can provide you contact info; or see the resources for a list.
Citizen Science: Monitor and report
Citizen scientists are making important contributions to the understanding of Monarchs and their migration, and nectar plant observations. Create your own 4-H monitoring record or journal and begin your observations. Input your data into citizen science databases hosted through Journey North (all sightings will be included on Journey North's real-time maps) and Monarch Nectar Plant Observations.
Things to include in your journal:
- First monarch you see in the Spring
- First milkweed plant to emerge
- First monarch egg
- First monarch larva
- Monarch Fall roost
- Native Monarch nectar plants
This project will help you learn about bees and beekeeping. You will learn about the types of bees, the honey and wax they produce, the plants that attract bees, and the equipment a beekeeper needs. If you want to set up your own hive, you'll learn basic beehive care, how to extract and bottle honey. Advanced topics include: increasing the number of your honey bee colonies, increasing honey production, producing special kinds of honey, and learning more about bee societies.
In project Butterfly WINGS, youth explore the outdoors through guided inquiry, learn to identify the butterfly families and common butterflies, and contribute to science.
Explore the amazing world of insects and their arthropod relatives. Learn exciting new things about insects and their life cycle. Collect insects and construct an entomology box so that others can learn about insects as well. This project is filled with many hands on activities that you will enjoy and want to share with others.