The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is reminding residents of an important pollinator beginning its migrations through the state is in serious trouble.
Wildlife biologist Melissa Panella with Game and Parks says populations of monarchs have been on the decline for at least the past twenty years, mostly due to the loss of Milkweed in their habitat.
“There are fewer Milkweeds on the landscape than there used to be, so that’s probably a big part of the problem.”
Panella says Milkweed is the only plant on which monarchs will lay their eggs and the only plant Monarch caterpillars will eat. She says there’s a good reason for this; Milkweed provides an essential defense mechanism to monarch caterpillars.
“There’s a sticky substance inside the plant when the caterpillar eats that, it gains toxicity in its system.”
That way, if a bird decides the caterpillar would make for a tasty treat, the toxins gained by ingesting by the Milkweed would make the bird feel sick.
“It’s a form of protection,” says Panella.
Panella says Nebraskans who want to help Monarch populations can plant milkweed or other nectar-bearing plants themselves.
She notes that monarch butterflies don’t need large amounts of nectar to get the sustenance they need; a few potted plants along a balcony or front porch will do.