Md. launches effort to save Monarch butterflies

WASHINGTON – Although they flash their colorful wings in the summer and fall, the population of monarch butterflies is in trouble.

As a result, the state of Maryland is stepping in to help boost the pollinators’ numbers.

“The population of monarch butterflies has always fluctuated, but in recent years, it has really taken a downturn,” said Jennifer Frye, invertebrate ecologist with the Department of Natural Resources.

The monarch has seen a 90 percent loss in numbers. The department’s $32,000 in grant money recently awarded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will help the butterflies rebound.

“They only over-winter in a specific fir forest in Mexico. So they need that forest in order to survive,” Frye said.

Researchers think the decline is due to a number of factors including logging in that forest, climate change, and a loss of food sources along the 3,000-mile migration route, which grant funds will help restore.

“We’re going to use it to plant nectar sources like golden rods and asters that monarchs can use during their migration,” she said.

It’s something gardeners can do at home to help their effort.

“If they wanted to plant nectar plants, any kind of flowering plant that is in bloom at all times of the year,” she said. “We have monarchs around in the summer and all through fall so any place that butterflies can stop and get nectar is fantastic.”

Increasing nectar plants will also help other pollinators like honey bees, beetles and moths which are critical to the ecosystem, she said.

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Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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