Monarchs arriving in Wisconsin: Learn how to help butterflies this summer
Courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
WISCONSIN – Monarchs are arriving!
While colder weather and unfavorable winds this spring delayed the arrival of monarchs, Wisconsinites are now reporting seeing these iconic beauties.
Wisconsin is in the core breeding ground for the eastern migratory population of monarchs. The state’s milkweed feeds and produces several generations each spring and summer before a final wave gorges itself on wildflower nectar and embarks on a 1,700-mile journey to central Mexico where they overwinter. They begin migrating north in spring, and get as far as northern Mexico and the southern United States before laying eggs and dying.
Their offspring take up the journey, and it is mostly this generation that reaches Wisconsin and lays their eggs, starting the cycle again.
30 years of watching, waiting, feeding monarchs
Judy Cardin and Robert Plamann of Madison are among the many Wisconsinites who eagerly await the monarchs’ arrival. The couple have converted much of their front yard to a pollinator garden, and grow several milkweed species for monarchs.
“Bob and I have been looking for our first monarch this year, and at sunset on May 17 he spotted and photographed this weary traveler resting at Badger Prairie County Park,” said Judy.
She submitted their report and accompanying photo to Journey North, a citizen science program based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum whose online platform allows people to register and report observances of butterflies, birds and other nature. On May 22, the couple saw a monarch on milkweed in their yard.
“We have been entranced with the complex life cycle of monarchs since we raised a tiny monarch caterpillar to adulthood almost 30 years ago with our five-year-old son,” Judy said. “The three of us watched the monarch fly out of our son’s second story window with a sense of awe. I can still see it in my mind as I write this.”
Three ways to help monarchs this year
The eastern population of monarch butterflies has declined by 80% over the past 20 years, and the primary cause is loss of breeding habitat in Wisconsin and other Midwestern states. The Wisconsin DNR is part of the Wisconsin Monarch Collaborative working to help reverse the decline. Here are a few opportunities partners are offering this year to help monarchs.
Report first arrival dates: Join Judy and Robert in helping monitor monarchs this spring by submitting details about the first monarch you see this spring or summer. Read where monarchs are arriving, register and report to Journey North (www.journeynorth.org/monarchs).
Increase pollinator habitat: There are a lot of great resources specific to Wisconsin on how to add milkweed and other habitat for monarchs and other pollinators. Visit www.tinyurl.com/yyku8v32 to learn more.
Attend training to help monitor monarchs and their habitat: The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin is recruiting volunteers to help monitor monarchs and their habitat at priority sites in southwest Wisconsin. Through a grant NRF secured from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, nearly 2,000 acres of habitat will be established on public sites to benefit pollinators including monarchs and the federally endangered rusty patched bumble bee.
Register for one of the trainings at www.tinyurl.com/4kjj67mm.