Saving The Monarch


For the past two years, I’ve been gathering monthly with a group of diverse and talented women. Within the group, there is a doctor, lawyer, political consultant, financial advisor, non-profit manager, artist, director/actress and me - rancher/cook. We discuss all kinds of topics, offer advice and get updated on each other's lives.

Monarch butterly on plants

At one gathering, as we swirled our glasses of wine, chatting and waiting for our hors d’oeuvres to arrive, one of my friends announced that she had just joined the Sierra Club. She asked if we were we aware that the Monarch butterflies were under severe threat and suggested that we get involved to save them.

The discussion went on with ways to do just that. We’d plant butterfly gardens, put seed packets together for distribution and so on. I sat listening to most of the ideas and volunteered to seed the recently disturbed acre area around my studio at the ranch with milkweed and other butterfly attracting wildflowers.

As I listened to the optimistic ideas that were being discussed with great enthusiasm, my prairie restoration/conservation mind kicked in. Without thinking, and as our food was being served, I opened my mouth and the following pessimistic words fell out, “All of this sounds really great, but we are saying one thing and we are doing another. If we really want to save the Monarch and any other threatened species, we shouldn’t put this (pointing to the food and lifting up my wine glass) in our mouths. All of this food has been grown with some sort of chemical, herbicide, or pesticide and is killing the very thing we want to save. Our suggestions are a band aid approach for an issue that is going to require real change in our everyday choices.”

All went silent as I realized that my preachy words had sucked all of the joy out of our joyful evening. The friend who had joined the Sierra Club said, “Yes - you are probably right, but right now we are hungry and thirsty, so we will do better tomorrow.” I tried to recover from my overly-opinionated comments and said, “That’s all any of us can do," as I reached for the first plate.   

After returning home that evening, I was curious to learn more about the Monarch, so I opened my laptop and did a little research and learned the following:

  • Monarchs have four life cycles: 1) egg 2) caterpillar 3) chrysalis 4) adult butterfly.
  • There are four generations of the Monarch in one year.
  • An adult Monarch lives for two to six weeks and dies after laying their eggs on their host plant, milkweed.
  • The 4th generation of Monarch's live longer, flying to warmer climates in Mexico, where they hibernate for six to eight months and then start the whole cycle all over again.
  • According to the US Fish & Wildlife, a billion Monarch butterflies have vanished since 1990.
  • The World Wildlife Fund stated that the Upper Midwest grasslands have been drastically converted into soy bean and corn fields, which require large amounts of herbicides and weed-resistant chemicals, killing the Monarch’s host plant, milkweed. The female Monarch flutters across these areas in search of a host plant to lay her eggs, but their habitat has been wiped off from this landscape as 97% of milkweed has been eradicated from these areas.

My next click on the computer was to a nursery that specialized in prairie wildflower seeds, where I placed my order for milkweed and other favorite butterfly loving plants and flowers. I sowed the seeds last spring and fall... fingers crossed that I will see some results this year. What else can we do? Giving up isn’t an option. So... together, we’ll continue to do the best we can. We’ll educate each other, plant butterfly gardens, and when we can, eat sustainably.

BTW: March 14th is National Learn About Butterflies Day! At Wild Idea Buffalo Co. we can't imagine a world without butterflies! We would like to do more in supporting the recovery efforts of the Monarch and other important pollinators. So, today, Wild Idea will contribute 10% of our meat sales to the Monarch Butterfly and Pollinators Conservation Fund. Together one bite at a time, we can make a difference!

Learn more on how you can help here:


  • Posted on by Liz Aicher

    We are working hard here in northern New Mexico to help the Monarchs. Since the milkweed plant (any/all) are host plants for the Monarch, we are planting and seeding in lots of milkweeds. My favorite is Asclepias tuberosa, aka Butterfly Weed. It’s the bright orange one! Prairie Moon Nursery has many plants and seeds for a variety of milkweeds, many of which can succeed in South Dakota as well as New Mexico, and parts between and on either side! The Monarch population has plummeted here in Los Alamos, NM. I only saw one last year. Just fyi – the bee population has also done a nosedive. I know WIB is helping with this; I hope anyone reading this will help as well!

  • Posted on by Judy Williamson

    One thing people can do to help is to collect and clean milkweed seed in the fall and send it to organizations that help disseminate it in those areas of the Monarch’s migration corridor where milkweed is scarce. Sixteen states within this corridor have developed the Mid-American Monarch Conservation Strategy. The overall goal of the strategy is to increase the amount of milkweed stems throughout the migration corridor in order to achieve viable over-wintering populations in Mexico. In 2017 “Milkweed for Monarchs” was established by The Prairie Enthusiasts and is a program that was put forth to TPE members, partners, and the public to encourage them to help by collecting milkweed seed. If you’re interested in becoming a part of this grassroots approach, TPE puts out a blog with more information on how you can help (this information came from a blog that was put out last fall). Here is the link: Here’s to happy seed collecting :)

  • Posted on by Toni Hamner

    Barbers Kingsolver wrote a wonderful novel about this, Flight Behavior, and National Geographic wrote a beautiful article and did a photo essay as the plight of monarchs was in its infancy. There are people saving mountainsides by preserving the resting places in Virginia and now you and your friends will add to the palnting of food sources along the flyway in the prairies. There is so much information with visuals out there. I am waiting for your photo journal from the migration this year. Bless you Jill, for becoming part of the solution.

  • Posted on by Blake O'Quinn

    Jill, you may already know about San Antonio’s efforts in support of the Monarchs. they need special help from us on their long path to Canada and return to Mexico. an acre of wildflowers here and there spread across the plains certainly will have a positive effect. here are a few sites that may help you, even though centered in Texas.

    thank you for sharing your love of delicate nature at its most imperiled.

  • Posted on by Julie Kiene

    Many years ago I saw a special about how chickens were raised and then discovered my young daughter was way ahead on adolescent development from where she should be, so I stopped buying chickens and beef treated with hormones and transitioned to grass fed chickens and buffalo. Then I read Dan’s book and became a customer, I was so happy to be a recipient of his ranching practices. We keep our meat intake down and buy organic food, our families health is well worth the extra cost as well as the health of the workers on the farms.
    Yes, I’ve been growing milkweed for a few years, but haven’t seen any monarchs on them yet. I think I need to add more! I think I’ll order milkweed seeds for my book clubs, too. That’s a great idea you had.
    Thanks for doing what you do!

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