Monarchs need your help

New guide explains how Central Valley farmers can bolster butterfly populations

California's Central Valley plays a critical role in supporting western monarch butterflies. Farmers can help by planting milkweed and other nectar-rich flowers that bloom in the spring and early fall alongside their primary crops. Credit: Tom Koerner/USFWS

California's Central Valley plays a critical role in supporting western monarch butterflies. Farmers can help by planting milkweed and other nectar-rich flowers that bloom in the spring and early fall alongside their primary crops. Credit: Tom Koerner/USFWS


By Rebecca Fabbri
August 2, 2019

Over the past few decades, monarch populations across the United States have declined, and they need your help. The western population has especially hit a record low, decreasing 99 percent since the 1980s.

From October to February, most monarch butterflies spend the winter along the California coast, and then migrate inland in the spring for breeding. California’s Central Valley is an important part of the western monarch’s range, both for breeding in the early spring and for supporting the butterflies as they move through the region during their migrations.

In recognition of the Central Valley’s significance to western monarchs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation worked together to produce a new guide for Central Valley farmers who are interested in creating monarch habitat on their land.

A Quick Guide to Monarch Habitat on Farms in California’s Central Valley provides straightforward, useful information for creating monarch habitat on working lands, including recommended plants, tips for plant establishment and suggested management practices.

"Many farmers in the Central Valley want to help monarchs, but aren’t always sure of the best way to go about it,” said Angela Laws, monarch and pollinator ecologist with The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “That’s why we created this guide ⁠— we believe that working farmers have a really important role in conserving these butterflies.”

Since the Central Valley plays a critical role in supporting western monarch butterflies, farmers that add monarch habitat to their lands can aid in the conservation of this species by planting milkweed and other nectar-rich flowers that bloom in the spring and early fall.

“We appreciate all the wildlife conservation and habitat restoration efforts our Central Valley farmers have partaken in and look forward to continuing to work together to protect monarch butterflies,” said Paul Souza, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Southwest regional director.