One of North America’s greatest migrations is taking place now and Oklahoma is the place to be to witness it. Monarch butterflies are making their way south to their overwintering grounds in central Mexico. You may have seen some of the early arrivals in the last couple of weeks. The largest numbers of monarchs are expected to move through Oklahoma from September 24 to October 6. During the migration, it’s possible to see a cloud of monarchs pass by or to see a tree branch actually weighed down by hundreds of roosting monarchs. It is a delightful, magical, awe-inspiring sight – truly a natural wonder. Sadly, it is a sight that is less and less common each year. Monarch populations have declined by 90% in the last 20 years, because of habitat loss and widespread pesticide use.
Monarchs need our help and Oklahoma is a critical part of their migration route. You can help by simply planting a pesticide free garden for monarchs. Be sure to include the monarch’s host plant, milkweed, and different types of nectar plants to provide blooms from spring through fall. Monarchs need nectar to fuel their journey north in the spring and south in the fall. Your garden will also benefit other pollinators, many of which are in decline too. Pollinators are important, not just because butterflies brighten our world, but because a third of our crops are dependent upon or improved by animal pollination.
Come to the zoo on Saturday September 24 to celebrate nature’s winged wonders at our Monarch Festival. You can pledge to be part of the solution and learn how to plant a garden to benefit monarchs and other pollinators. There will also be lots of fun kids’ activities, local artists selling their nature-inspired artwork, and information stations hosted by many conservation organizations that are committed to helping monarchs. I hope to see you there!
– Rebecca Snyder, curator of conservation and science
Photos courtesy of The Nature Conservancy.