Monarch butterflies are magnificent creatures. They start out as tiny eggs, hatching into bold yellow, black, and white caterpillars. They move into their chrysalis phase, a time when they are wrapped up tightly in a cocoon. While inside, they undergo a shocking transformation – they go from fat, grubby caterpillars to delicate, beautiful butterflies. Monarchs generally live from four to five weeks. But in the summer, a special generation is born. They will survive for months. They need to live a long time because they will be making a special journey. They will be traveling a long, long way.
Where are they going? The monarchs are heading to the forests of Mexico. Monarch butterflies need to go there to escape cold winter conditions in the United States and Canada. There, so many of them will crowd onto trees, branches will bend. Their journey is a long one, at almost 2,800 miles. That’s the longest known migration of any insect!
Unfortunately, monarch butterflies are threatened. The forests they go to in Mexico are being cut down. There is less protection from harsh weather when there are fewer trees.
Also, pesticides are very harmful. Milkweed is the only plant monarchs will lay their eggs on, and the only plant caterpillars will eat, but pesticides are causing it to majorly decrease.
Climate change, or global warming, is a big threat to monarchs as well. Changing weather and different patterns of precipitation can be harmful to monarchs. Droughts can lead to less food for caterpillars, who would normally grow into monarchs. Monarch butterflies aren’t as threatened as sea turtles or elephants, but someday, they could become extinct. This is a bad thing for not only monarchs but also for our world because monarchs do so much for us.
Monarchs are important because they pollinate plants, just like bees do. This means that while collecting nectar to drink, they help plants reproduce. Not as many monarchs equal not as many beautiful flowers. But it also means something very serious for us humans – it means not as much food.
So how should you help monarchs? One way is to plant milkweed in your backyard. Make sure to research what type of milkweed is local to where you live. Another way is to never use pesticides. If you have a garden, stop using weed killers or insecticides. Buy organic food. Plant an organic garden that monarchs can collect nectar from. Learn all about monarch butterflies, and spread the word about what you learned and how to help them. Together, we can save monarch butterflies.