In July 2022, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) drew attention to North America’s migrating monarchs by adding them to their ICUN Red List of Threatened Species. In the United States, the more immediate plight of other threatened and endangered species has precluded the monarchs’ inclusion on the Endangered Species List. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged that their place on this list is “warranted.” They mandated that the monarchs be reviewed annually as a potential candidate for inclusion. These incredible insects migrate 4000 miles every spring and fall and face immense dangers on this epic journey. What simple steps can you take to help monarchs as they travel past your home?
It’s the only food monarch caterpillars eat! The most readily accessible native species in South Carolina are butterfly weed, common milkweed, and swamp milkweed (all available at the South Carolina Botanical Garden’s upcoming plant sale). Less common species might be found through local native plant specialist nurseries. Do not plant non-native tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica). A report published in 2015 found that monarchs who overwintered in the southeast on tropical milkweed were 5-9 times more likely to be infected with a parasite. This is a controversial topic and research is ongoing. However, there are better milkweed choices available for South Carolina. For more information on native South Carolina species, visit the South Carolina Wildlife Foundation.
Plant Nectar Plants for A Year-Round Supply
While significant attention has been paid to growing milkweeds for monarch caterpillars, adults need plentiful, rich sources of nectar. A partnership of the Xerces Society, Monarch Joint Venture, and National Wildlife Federation developed 15 regional lists for the continental U.S., including one for our southeastern region, featuring excellent nectar plants.
Avoid Pesticides and Herbicides
Pesticides do extensive damage to all pollinators, including monarch adults and caterpillars. Widespread use of herbicides has resulted in the decimation of milkweed populations across the country.
As a monoculture, lawns provide very little support for monarchs or other insects and are a drain on natural resources, particularly water and fossil fuels. Add more native blooming plants to your landscape instead!
Encourage Your City or Town Government to Support Monarchs Too!
Greer, Irmo, and Clemson now have the designation “Monarch City, USA.” These towns are dedicated to planting milkweed and nectar plants on public sites and thus add to the habitat “steppingstones” available to migrating monarchs.
- Friends of the Garden Sale, September 23, 2 p.m.- 6 p.m.
- Public Plant Sale, September 24, 9 a.m.- 1 p.m.