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Monarch Butterflies and How Bedford Can Help Save Them  

Written by Bedford 2030 Intern, Olivia Nero. Read more about all our interns HERE.

Olivia is 18 years old and will be majoring in marine biology at the University of Miami. She planted several native plant species in her backyard this spring, which are attracting important pollinators like honey bees and butterflies. 

Monarch Butterflies are pollinators that are important to our ecosystem. Their migration path pollinates ecosystems and is essential for the survival of those ecosystems. Monarchs are sensitive to temperature and it is a key factor to their migration. Changes in temperature and droughts are very harmful to these beautiful creatures. Warmer temperatures and other abnormal weather events can prevent the butterflies from migrating north in the spring. The temperature changes affect their life cycle and hibernation. Illegal logging is also destroying their habitat.  


Photo from: https://monarchjointventure.org/monarch-biology/monarch-migration 

Monarchs are one of the most beautiful butterflies. Their wings have gorgeous shades of orange, black, and white spots. These colors serve as a warning to predators that they are poisonous. Other butterflies mimic the colors of monarchs to defend against predators. Monarch butterflies cannot bite, instead they drink nectar through their straw-like tongue. As caterpillars they are chubby with black, yellow, and white stripes. They form green chrysalis that take around fourteen days to hatch. Once they hatch, monarchs live for around two to six weeks. Monarch butterflies are the only butterflies that have a two-way migration. They migrate all the way from Canada to Mexico.  

Monarchs are large, beautifully colored butterflies that are easy to recognize by their striking orange, black, and white markings.
Monarch butterflies in the caterpillar stage feed only on milkweed.

Photos from: https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/facts/monarch-butterfly 

Monarch butterflies have a cultural significance to Mexico and other places in the midwest. The butterflies arrive in Mexico around the same time as The Day of the Dead. Some say that they are the spirits of loved ones or warriors returning. However, fewer and fewer Monarchs are returning each year. Unfortunately, climate change is threatening monarch butterflies and their symbolic migration. There are many ways that we as Bedford and Westchester residents can help save monarchs and create healthy habitats for them in our yards.

Here are a few you can implement now!:

  1. Pesticides cause harm to monarch butterflies. Avoid using pesticides in your garden to help protect monarchs and other wildlife. 
  2. Plant native milkweed. Milkweed is the only plant that monarch caterpillars eat. Milkweed is also where they get their poison from. There are a few different species of milkweed to choose from. Varieties include: common milkweed, butterfly weed, white milkweed, whorled milkweed, and more. Some local plant nurseries are: Michael’s Garden Gate Nursery, Bedford Hills Nursery, Katonah Nursery, and more. 
  3. Use your purchasing power! Buying only FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood will help ensure that the monarchs have a place to return to in Mexico. Illegal logging is destroying their habitat. 
  4. Report monarch sightings to Journey North to help keep track of their population. 

Where to see Monarchs:

  • Open fields and areas like Central Park are great places to see monarch butterflies. 
  • Your backyard! Try adding a pollinator garden to help attract monarchs and other vital pollinators. 
  • The Bronx Zoo is a wonderful place to see monarchs and other butterfly species.  
  • The Botanical Gardens are a great place to see monarchs. 
  • Monarchs can be seen in the Adirondack Mountains throughout the summer months. 
  • The beach! Next time you go to the beach keep an eye out for monarch butterflies. 
  • There are many sanctuaries in Mexico to see the butterflies in November when they arrive from their migration such as Piedra Herradura Sanctuary, Cerro Pelon Sanctuary, El Rosario Sanctuary, and Sierra Chincua Sanctuary.