Help save Monarch butterflies by taking action

Jerry Apps
The simple act of planting milkweed goes a long way to helping the Monarch butterfly.

I have enjoyed watching Monarch butterflies flitting about our prairie every year since we began restoring these several acres to prairie grasses, wild flowers, and a considerable patch of milkweeds.

We began the prairie restoration project in the late 1960s. Little did I know that the lowly milkweed would become one of the important plants that we have growing there.

I was dismayed to hear back in July that the monarch butterfly is now listed as endangered. Its numbers are declining to a point that if the trend continues the Monarch will go the way of the passenger pigeon—we will see them no more.

The Monarchs we see in Wisconsin migrate each year from their summer home in the north to their winter home in Mexico.  Along its journey north of several thousand miles, it breeds multiple generations of its offspring. 

The Monarch is the only butterfly to fly south before winter, and return north the following spring like many species of birds.

Why are their numbers decreasing to the point that the beautiful orange and black butterfly has found itself listed as endangered?  A major reason is the disappearance of milkweeds. In the caterpillar phase, Monarchs eat only the leaves of milkweeds.  Milkweeds are disappearing due to droughts and herbicides used to control weeds in agricultural crops.

According to researchers, climate change is also affecting the butterfly’s normal reproduction and migration.

When I first heard that Monarchs had been listed as endangered, my daughter and I made a tour of our prairie. We counted more than a dozen monarchs flitting about our large patches of milkweed. But not as many as I have seen in other years. The Monarch is endangered. It’s time to take some action.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Plant a milkweed. Save a monarch butterfly.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to or contact him at