Did you know there’s another pollinator in danger of disappearing? Learn how to help them below…
Bees often get all the attention when it comes to preserving our pollinators — and for good reason! We need to save our bees — but did you know butterflies are also in danger of extinction? Right now, there are over 20 species of butterflies in North America that are currently endangered and 56 species across Ireland and Britain, including monarchs. Yes, the butterfly of all butterflies is actually very much in danger of disappearing. In fact, since 1990 about 970 million monarch butterflies have vanished. This massive loss can be attributed to many things, though loss of habitat, pesticides, and climate change top the list. Because of their fragility, butterflies react to changes within their habitat (which is our habitat. too) quickly, meaning their declining numbers are a serious indicator that our entire eco-system is compromised. The time to act is now. Can you imagine a world void of painted wings, fluttering works of art darting from flower to flower? It’s difficult to imagine, but not as far from reality as it seems, unfortunately.
So what can you do to help improve butterflies’ lives and encourage their numbers? The answer shouldn’t surprise you: plant flowers. Lots and lots of flowers, especially, if you live in North America, milkweed. Milkweed acts as monarch butterflies’ main source of food, shelter, and a place to lay their eggs. Plus, have you ever smelled milkweed flowers? They smell incredible and their seed pods are fascinating — reason alone to plant some. Recently the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service teamed up with the National Fish and Wildlife Federation and the National Wildlife Federation to encourage people, especially farmers, to plant more milkweed and get the word out about butterfly conservancy. If milkweed isn’t your thing, or it’s not native to your area, the good news is that butterflies aren’t too picky about flowers (can you blame them?), though there are some they prefer over others. Check out our graphics below, then scroll on to learn how to make a butterfly feeder, a second step in helping them bounce back.
What flowers do butterflies like?
Along with planting milkweed, wildflowers, herbs, annuals, and perennials, you can offer local butterflies a sip of something sweet to keep them going. Like hummingbirds, butterflies love sugar water, and with a few simple materials you can create a butterfly feeder to keep in your garden:
DIY Butterfly Feeder
Mason jar with lid
Small piece of sponge (about 1″ x 1″)
Rope or twine
Sugar water (dissolve sugar in water to make a simple syrup)
Use the hammer and nail to punch a hole a little smaller than the size of a pencil in the center of the lid of the mason jar, then use the nail to push the piece of sponge through the hole so it fits snugly in place. Set aside.
Cut three pieces of twine, 2-feet long each. Tie each string around the neck of the jar, knotting it securely in place. Adjust the string so each piece is equal distance from the other. Cut another piece of strong, long enough to be tied around the middle of the mason jar. With the mason jar lid-side down, hold all three pieces of twine so the jar is evenly suspended and have a friend tie the fourth piece of string around the middle of the jar to hold them in place. Bring the three long pieces together and knot the top so the jar can be hung.
Unscrew the lid of the jar and add your sugar water. Turn it upside down so the water soaks the sponge, you want to be sure the sponge gets wet, but isn’t so loose the water pours out. Adjust as needed. Find a spot near your garden and as close to your flowers as possible to hang your butterfly feeder – you want to make sure they can see it. The butterflies will grip the sponge and drink up the sugar water.
+ How are you helping butterflies? Let us know!