You can help bring back monarch butterflies | | What you can do | David Suzuki Foundation
Photo: You can help bring back monarch butterflies

(Credit: Tin Can Forest)

Usually, hundreds of millions of monarch butterflies, each weighing less than a paperclip, travel some 5,000 kilometres from Canada to Mexico—the longest insect migration on Earth. But monarchs are in deep trouble, and need urgent help.

What's up with monarchs?

Monarchs overwinter in Mexico. Last year, only 60 million turned up — the lowest since monitoring began in 1993. A study by WWF Mexico estimates that number has plunged again by almost half in winter 2014 — leading experts to suggest the monarch migration may disappear altogether.

Threats include:

  • Loss of native plants like milkweed
  • Severe weather events
  • Continued logging in Mexican forests

Find out more here.

What are some of the solutions?

Remedies include:

  • Increasing milkweed and native, pollinator-friendly species throughout the U.S. and Canada
  • Reducing herbicide and pesticide use
  • Stronger protection of monarch wintering grounds

What can Canadians do to help the monarch?

GET MILKWEED: Add some native plants to your garden or balcony. Choose milkweed and other pollinator-friendly flowers that support a diversity of bugs and birds. To source milkweed, try local environmental, gardening and horticultural groups in your community. In Toronto during the month of April, the David Suzuki Foundation will be selling milkweed plants for $5 as part of the Homegrown National Park Project. Local nurseries and garden centres may carry it — or you can encourage them to carry a selection of native flowers and shrubs (Check this list for growers near you).

TAKE IT TO YOUR 'HOOD: Transform medians, roadsides, and hydro and rail corridors from pavement to pollinator-friendly, or ask your local park group or school to plant a pollinator garden.

CREATE A BUTTERFLY WAY STATION: Monarch Watch can help turn yards and parks into "Monarch Waystation" — butterfly-welcoming stopovers. There are already almost 7,500 across North America, including more than 300 in Canada.

HELP US PLANT MILKWEED: For $25 you can support our #gotmilkweed campaign to grow a butterfly corridor through the City of Toronto. Or consider making a small donation to send a beautiful butterfly e-card to help us help the monarchs.

Send an e-card to help butterflies

What can government do to protect monarchs?

There is currently no formal protection for the monarch in Canada. It's listed as a species of "special concern" under federal and provincial endangered species legislation.

The David Suzuki Foundation recommends:

  • Removing milkweed from noxious weed acts
  • Protecting native wildflower habitat and encouraging planting along roadsides, and rail and hydro corridors
  • Protecting migration stopover sites from disturbance.

How is the David Suzuki Foundation helping?

This Foundation will be encouraging urban residents to do their part by planting milkweed in gardens, balconies and local green spaces like parks and schools. During April 2014, we will be selling milkweed plants through our #GotMilkweed campaign as part of the Homegrown National Park Project in Toronto.

Adding a single milkweed plant to your garden or balcony may seem like a small action, but when multiplied by hundreds or thousands, it will have a dramatic impact on local bees and butterflies.

More Resources: U.S. organization dedicated to all things monarchs where you can get your pollinator garden certified as a Monarch Waystation. Gardens need to be at least 100 square feet, get six hours of sun per day and contain a mix of milkweed and pollinator friendly plants.

Raise your own monarch butterflies: Toronto author Carol Pasternak's step-by-step kids' book on raising your own black and orange flutterers.

The Great Butterfly Hunt Documentary about the monarchs' plight from CBC's The Nature of Things with David Suzuki.

Flight of the Butterflies: A scientific adventure story about the monarch migration and the determined scientists who spent 40 years trying to discover their path.

Read more