Blog: Conservation Conversations with Jamie

Monarchs Are Flying Goodbye

Over the last 20 years, more than 90% of the Monarch butterfly population has vanished.  What once was the iconic butterfly species for the United States has now become harder and harder to find. Sadly, people are largely to blame for the species demise. Monarch butterflies require Milkweed to survive. The butterfly must lay its eggs on Milkweed plants. It is the ONLY plant monarch caterpillars eat, and we’ve cut most of it down.
What’s in a Name?

There are many reasons why we have cut down Milkweed. Different types of milkweed are found throughout the United States so, there are varying reasons it disappeared. But Common Milkweed, the type that grew commonly (hence, the name) here in Illinois, was cut down to make room for homes, communities, farmland, and roadways.  Even though we know the importance of Milkweed, it was at a huge disadvantage.  Someone decided to put weed in its name.  I am not sure why. It doesn’t even remind me of a weed I would see in my yard because its flowers are actually quite lovely. But, if there is one thing I know for sure, people don’t want weeds in their yards. So, once the milkweed was cut down, no one replanted it.
Game Changer (Because We Can’t Name Change)
Monarch on thistle

The grounds at Brookfield Zoo have always been a refuge for Monarchs and their caterpillars, but through the Chicago Zoological Society’s Communities and Nature Program we are hoping to make a difference around the country.  The staff dedicated to our Communities and Nature program has partnered with a few different organizations to help spread the word and spread Milkweed!  
Start Seeing Monarchs founder, Kimberly Savino, will be guest blogging for me on a variety of issues impacting the Monarch.  We are also working closely with Monarch Watch to certify “Monarch Waystations” on Brookfield Zoo grounds, special Monarch Butterfly Zoo Chats will be offered this summer, and we will have Monarch butterfly releases.  We will also be celebrating the 1st annual National Start Seeing Monarchs Day! So stay tuned to my blog or for more information about upcoming events.
- Jamie Zite-Stumbris


Posted: 3/18/2015 10:07:16 AM by Filed under: butterflies, Monarch Butterflies, pollination, Start Seeing Monarchs Day

Jamie Zite-Stumbris
Thank you so much for your interest in Monarchs! You are correct. Milkweed was more common in past years. Common Milkweed was the variety found in Illinois. Agriculture and development took over most of the areas where Milkweed was common. You can absolutely find milkweed to plant in your yard. It can be found in most home improvement or garden centers. You can also purchase milkweed directly from Once you have planted your milkweed you can even register your garden as a Monarch Waystation through their program.

Breeding and releasing them isn't the best way to help and protect them. Breeding and releasing is a great start and we will be doing that at Brookfield Zoo this summer, but we need to supply food for the monarchs for their migration. If we breed and release lots of monarchs, but don't have milkweed for the caterpillars to eat, we won't really be solving the problem.
Check out our Communities and Nature webpage to find out more information about the efforts CZS and Brookfield Zoo are doing to protect Monarchs, their caterpillars, and their habitat!

4/1/2015 3:30:50 PM
I remember milkweed growing in our town when I was little. Now, I don't see it nor the Monarchs anywhere. How can we get a hold of milkweed seeds to help bring the monarchs back? Why don't towns/cities regrow the milkweed in parks or unused land and bring in Monarch caterpillars to help? It's like the bees...can't they be bred and released in areas?
4/1/2015 3:12:56 PM
 Security code