Monarch Butterflies: The Pollinator We Love

Monarch Butterflies Pollinators

Blazing orange-red wings, deep black veins, bright white polka dots – the distinctive colors of the North American monarch butterfly are instantly recognizable, as monarchs are one of the most well-known and beloved insects in the country.

In schools, children study their incredible metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly. And in communities across the US, researchers, conservationists and interested citizens track the migration pattern of these marvelous creatures and work to preserve this precious species from extinction.

Migration pattern

In addition to their exceptional beauty, monarch butterflies are so captivating due to their astonishing migration pattern. Every year, eastern and western monarchs, split into these two populations by the Rocky Mountains, travel from 1,200 to 2,800 miles between the US, Canada, and central Mexico.

Monarchs cannot survive cold winters, so each year, they fly great distances to warmer climates in Mexico or California for the winter months. Since the average lifespan of a monarch butterfly is only a few weeks, that means that these creatures know innately the correct direction to migrate, even though each individual butterfly has not traveled that path before. In fact, monarchs are the only butterflies known to complete a two-way migration.

Helpful pollinators

As pollinators, monarchs move pollen from plant to plant during their great migration, helping to ensure the food security of our country. Without pollinators like monarchs, over 80% of the world’s plants would be unable to reproduce, leading to food shortages, as well as potential economic and environmental disaster.

Decline of the monarch

With its characteristic black center and bright yellow petals, Black-eyed Susans, or Rudbeckia hirta, are one of the most popular wildflowers grown across the

Sadly, despite their usefulness and ubiquity in the American consciousness and culture, the monarch butterfly population has declined by an astonishing 90 percent since the ‘90s.

Habitat loss, pesticide usage, and global climate change have all contributed to the significant decline in the monarch butterfly population. Harsh winter storms and severe weather events brought on by climate change have destroyed butterfly populations, while modern agriculture and urban development have eliminated the majority of the monarch’s native habitat and migratory corridors. Moreover, pesticides and herbicides are responsible for killing milkweed and other native plants that monarchs depend on for nutrition.


Milkweed is a vital food source for monarch caterpillars, but more than that, it’s a host plant, where monarchs lay their eggs. After three to five days, the caterpillar eggs hatch, and these caterpillars spend the next four weeks of their lives growing, molting, and undergoing metamorphosis in their signature seafoam green chrysalises.

During those four weeks of growth, caterpillars survive solely on milkweed, while adult butterflies feed on both milkweed and other nectar-producing plants. Not only does milkweed provide a primary source of nutrition to these creatures, but it also contains toxins that, while safe for the monarchs to eat, deter predators by making monarchs taste bad.

Save the monarchs

One extremely effective way to bolster the monarch population is by planting milkweed on your land. While there are dozens of species of milkweed, it’s best to plant milkweed native to your area. Landing on non-native milkweed may cause monarchs to skip migration, so planting native milkweed ensures that the butterflies keep up their regular migration patterns.

Clearly, the beloved monarch needs our help. By planting milkweed in your farm or garden, you can help to ensure the longevity of monarch populations for years to come. At All Native Seed, we can help you plant milkweed and other monarch-supporting flowers through our CRP-ready seed mixes. Reach out to us today to learn how you can do your part to help save the monarchs.