Mile Square Regional Park in Fountain Valley just held its 6th Annual Monarch Butterfly Day on Saturday, Feb. 7. The event continued this year with its goal of educating and informing the community about the monarch butterfly population and how to help it thrive – especially during its current decline.
The monarch butterfly is known for its unique migratory patterns; it is the only type of butterfly that makes a two-way migration in the same fashion as birds. Those on the eastern parts of North America migrate all the way down to the Sierra Madres in Mexico (a journey that can be up to 3,000 miles), while those from the Rocky Mountains come to Central and Southern California in the winter (not a bad choice).
Unfortunately, the monarch butterfly population is declining rapidly. The butterflies have a symbiotic relationship with milkweed: They can only lay eggs on milkweed, and caterpillars solely eat milkweed. According to a recent report from the Center for Food Safety, milkweed is being decimated by the herbicide glyphosate. “Milkweed growing in Midwest cropland is essential to the monarch’s continued survival. Without milkweed, we’ll have no monarchs,” according to Dr. Martha Crouch, a biologist for the Center for Food Safety.
Why are these beautiful creatures important? First, there’s the intrinsic value of a species that has been around for more than 50 million years with a migratory pattern that’s a natural phenomena. Additionally, the monarch butterfly plays a vital role in the ecosystem as both a pollinator and as a food source for a variety of predators.
There’s still hope for the monarch. We had the chance to speak to OC Parks Ranger Arturo Castillo, who explained some of what they’re doing to help conserve this species: “OC Parks, with the help of volunteer groups, plants and hand waters an area of Mile Square Park with main nutrients specific to the monarch butterfly, including the narrow leaf milkweed. This area has been designated a certified Monarch Weigh Station, which signifies a place that the monarchs can stop and breed on their annual migration from North America to Mexico.”
On what each of us can do individually, he added: “The public can get involved and plant their own milkweed and any other nectar plants at home that are key to the monarch butterfly’s survival. The best way to combat the declining numbers is to help provide the habitat that they need to thrive and produce.”
If you’re interested in planting milkweed at your own home, check out Monarch Watch’s Milkweed Market for information on how to purchase it depending on your region.