Every spring, monarch butterflies leave their overwintering sites in Mexico and slowly make their way north to the United States and Canada. Along the way they search for milkweed on which to lay their eggs, as it is the only food monarch caterpillars (larvae) can eat. It will take several months and two to three generations for the butterfly to find its way north, culminating in a ‘super generation’ butterfly, which will ultimately make the amazing return back to Mexico in the fall.

Unfortunately, fewer and fewer monarchs make this flight each year. In the last two decades, monarch butterfly populations have declined by an alarming 90%. These incredible creatures depend on the milkweed plant for their very survival, but with shifting land management practices, millions of acres of native milkweed have vanished from our landscape, leaving the monarch’s future as a species in dire jeopardy. Recently, the monarch’s drastic population decrease has warranted immediate review of its situation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for possible placement on the agency’s Endangered Species watch list.

Cincinnati Nature Center launched Milkweed to Monarchs in 2014 in order to raise awareness of the fragile plight of the species and to

promote planting of milkweed in Southwest Ohio and beyond. With the help of the local media and concerned organizations including dozens of businesses, more than 160,000 milkweed seed packets have been distributed free of charge to encourage the planting of milkweed in yards and gardens. Homeowners, schools, businesses and organizations are joining together to give monarchs a place to land.

In addition to distributing seeds, the Nature Center is actively collaborating with partners in support of the monarch, both regionally and globally. One such partnership is with Monarch Joint Venture — a national entity that is bringing together a selective and broad coalition of partner organizations that are working together to support the monarch migration. Milkweed to Monarchs was selected by Monarch Joint Venture to represent the eastern edge of the butterfly’s Midwestern migration route.

We all can play a role in helping to save this iconic species by simply growing native milkweed plants in our yards and gardens. In the small act of planting a few seeds, each one of us can ultimately make a difference in the big picture of the monarch’s future.