About

Pollinators and Monarchs

Pollinators are animals that move from plant to plant while searching for protein-rich pollen or high-energy nectar to eat. As they go, they are dusted by pollen and move it to the next flower, fertilizing the plant and allowing it to reproduce and form seeds, berries, fruits and other plant foods that form the foundation of the food chain for other species—including humans. Pollinators are themselves important food sources for other wildlife. Countless birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians eat the protein and fat-rich eggs, larvae, or adult forms of pollinators, or feed them to their young. Pollinators play a critical role in the food supply for wildlife and people!

Carpenter Bee, Photo by Barb Dunlap

Bees are well-known pollinators, but over 100,000 invertebrates—including butterflies, moths, wasps, flies, and beetles—and over 1,000 mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, act as pollinators.

Pollinators worldwide are in decline. Habitat loss, invasive species, parasites, and pesticides are largely to blame. But you can help!

Proposing Highway Habitat Corridor

NWF and USFWS are working to create a coalition of agriculture leaders and highway transportation organizations to engage in addressing the plight of the monarch butterfly. NWF, along with its regions and affiliates and other organizations, are issuing a call to action for the increased support on monarch habitat along migratory flyways and in key monarch breeding grounds, in key Midwest and TX  corridors. Proposed conservation corridors would:

  • Enhance habitat and engage communities along the central flyway of monarch migration.
  • Amplify monarch and pollinator habitats on Federal Lands and on the highway by encouraging the protection and planting of milkweed and native grasses along roadsides.
  • Invest in strategic native prairie conservation efforts on both public and private lands on either side of the key highway corridors in areas important to the monarch migration and breeding. This would include federal lands, facilities, pipeline, rail and utility rights-of-ways.

Grasslands

NWF has worked for many years to advocate for public policy and federal legislation that improves protection for America’s remaining native grasslands and promotes taking marginal farmland out of production and restoring it to grassland, wetland and forest habitat. These important habitats provide the milkweed needed by monarch butterflies, as well as many other flowering plants that are important to pollinators. However, native grasslands are disappearing faster than any other ecosystem in North America. NWF has worked to try to protect the less than 10 percent that remains.

NWF's third biennial America’s Grasslands Conference on September 29 - October 1 in Fort Collins, Colorado. This conservation-oriented conference brings together biologists, conservationists, ranchers and local, state and federal agency staff to discuss America’s declining grassland ecosystems. NWF worked to ensure new protections for native grasslands and to shore up protection for wetlands on farmlands in the last Farm Bill.

NWF is working on solutions local citizens and communities can take to address the issue, including efforts with the agricultural community and other large landowners as partners in re-establishing monarch habitat and planting milkweed.

Community Wildlife Habitats Supportive of Pollinators

NWF Community Wildlife Habitats represent entire cities, towns, counties and neighborhoods that are taking action to support pollinators! These communities:

  • Create pollinator habitat by planting native, nectar-producing plants and creating corridors for wildlife in urban and suburban areas.
  • Educate citizens about the decline of the monarch butterfly through educational events, local editorials, creating educational materials and leading citizen science efforts.
  • Host events including native milkweed seed collections, milkweed plug giveaways, planting milkweeds in demonstration gardens and showcasing native milkweed in local Certified Wildlife Habitat garden tours.
  • Advocate for local ordinances that do not prevent the planting of  non- invasive native grasses, flowering plants and milkweed.

Examples of Community Activity include:

Utah - Cache Valley Wildlife Association
  • Milkweed planning projects, monarch workshops, speaking with radio & print media
  • Conducted county-wide larvae collections, raising the butterflies then tagging and releasing to study inter-mountain migration routes
  • Assisted with Eagle Scout milkweed projects
Maryland - Woodland Hills
  • Community had a Memorial Day event in which they gave away native plants including butterfly weed
  • On their common grounds across the  community, they are leaving the common milkweed
  • Received a matching grant from City of Gaithersburg to install another native plant garden to include white wood asters and goldenrod
Missouri - Chesterfield Citizens Committee for the Environment
  • Hosted events giving milkweed away providing pledge is signed for metrics
  • 9/24 city hall event pushing Certified Wildlife Habitats
  • They are Missouri's first and only Certified Community Wildlife Habitat
Connecticut - Community Wildlife Habitat of Colchester
  • Colchester Garden Club is a partner organization hosted butterfly talk at library, renovated butterfly garden by certified master gardeners and produced butterfly field guide as CGC fundraising effort
  • Cohen Woodlands local open space park working to renovate butterfly garden increasing by 4x and will focus on education garden including mostly natives for butterflies/pollinators
California - Alpine
  • Host a Monarch Mania festival to create awareness
  • Sell milkweed at local farmers markets

Support National Level Advocacy

NWF has worked for many years to advocate for public policy and federal legislation that improves protection for America’s remaining native grasslands. These important habitats provide the milkweed needed by monarch butterflies, as well as many other flowering plants that are important to pollinators.  However, native grasslands are disappearing faster than any other ecosystem in North America.

NWF is working to help protect the less than 10 percent of native grasslands that remains.

  • SOME NATIONAL ADVOCACY EXAMPLES INCLUDE:
    NWF successfully advocated for a “Sodsaver” program in the last Farm Bill that discouraged destruction of native grasslands and vital habitat by significantly reducing crop insurance subsidies on croplands recently converted from native grasslands, as well as a new provision to ensure that farmers who receive crop insurance subsidies have to protect wetlands on their property.
    NWF is pushing U.S. EPA to enforce the law that prohibits giving credit under the Renewable Fuels Standard to fuels produced on grasslands converted after 2007.
    NWF is submitting comments to the agencies on implementing rules and policies, including ensuring the programs, including the 26 million acre Conservation Reserve Program, are doing their best to accommodate native pollinators.
    NWF advocates before Congress in support of maintaining conservation programs, including the Conservation Reserve Program, and grassland and wetland easement programs, and their funding.
    NWF is organizing its third biennial America’s Grasslands Conference on September 29- October 1 in Fort Collins, Colorado. This conservation-oriented conference brings together biologists, conservationists, ranchers and local, state and federal agency staff to discuss America’s declining grassland ecosystems.

Obtain State Support

Read about how one state through NWF affiliate, New Jersey Audubon sponsored key pollinator legislation and monarch conservation.

New Jersey Audubon is working closely with New Jersey Assemblyman Timothy Eustace, the sponsor of three introduced bills specific to Monarchs, and a fourth that stands to help pollinators of all types. Learn more about their legislative work >>


For guidance when setting up a State Wide Monarch Summit use our downloadable guide.


  • HERE ARE SOME HIGHLIGHTS OF DIRECT WORK ON POLLINATORS AND MONARCHS:

    Our Delaware Affiliate, Delaware Nature Society (DNS), has a butterfly house at their Ashland Nature Center and leads education programs about monarchs and other butterflies for school groups and during summer camps and is active in citizen science through monarch tagging. DNS also manages over 1,100 acres of land in the state, a portion of which are in meadow habitat and specifically planted with milkweed. Annual native plant sales feature milkweed. Read more on DNS's efforts for monarchs >>

    For 25 years, the Monarch Monitoring Project, run through New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory, has collected and tagged Monarchs traveling the Atlantic coast on a 2000 mile journey to Mexico as they become concentrated in Cape May before crossing the Delaware Bay. Legislatively, NJ Audubon is working closely with New Jersey Assemblyman Timothy Eustace, the sponsor of four introduced bills that help pollinators and monarchs. The “Adopt a Monarch Butterfly Waystation” bill (A3353) would provide resources and coordination for planting milkweed on public lands and parks, while the “Milkweed for Monarchs” (A3352) program will focus efforts on drainage basins that could provide ideal growth opportunities for milkweed in otherwise unused areas. Another bill (AJR70) would designate May of each year as Milkweed for Monarchs month to encourage the planting and protection of milkweed by New Jersey residents, businesses, and schools. Finally, the “Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management Program” (A3354) promotes the use of native plants and wildflowers along roadsides throughout the state. Learn more about their work >>

    Our North Carolina affiliate, North Carolina Wildlife Federation, participates in the Certified Wildlife Habitat program. They have a corps of Habitat Steward Volunteers who do presentations and outreach across the state which very often feature monarchs and other butterflies.  They are working with us to certify several cities such as Charlotte and Concord as Community Wildlife Habitats.

    Through the Certified Wildlife Habitat program, the South Carolina Wildlife Federation has been encouraging gardeners and larger landowners to plant native milkweed to provide habitat for the monarch butterfly whose numbers have been declining drastically. Packets of milkweed seed are available through the SCWF office, and a partnership has been established with the Live Monarch Foundation where more milkweed seeds and seedlings can be purchased. SCWF is also hosting a dinner event which will feature NY Times Bestselling Author, Mary Alice Monroe, to raise awareness of the plight of the monarchs. Read more about their work >>