Spring has sprung, which means that nature is waking up and that species that have spent the winter down south are returning. Outside your window you might hear the sweet song of the robin, and in the garden, the green tips of tulips and crocus are starting to make an appearance. Soon the bees, bugs, and butterflies will be back, welcoming longer days and warmer temperatures.

One of the most amazing migratory species that we see come back here each spring is the monarch butterfly. These butterflies are known for their incredible migration across North America. Every fall, as the days shorten and the air gets colder, millions of these delicate insects leave their home range in Canada and the United States to fly south. They continue until they reach Southern California or central Mexico, more than 3,200 kilometres away!

Towards the end of the winter, the monarchs in Mexico and California mate. The females will then head north, laying eggs along the way on the milkweed plant. Milkweed is important because once the eggs hatch and the green- and white-striped caterpillars emerge they don’t feed on anything but milkweed. So while many consider milkweed a weed, it’s actually crucially important for this at-risk species.

A happy monarch caterpillar munches on milkweed (Photo by NCC)

This summer, The Nature Conservancy Canada will be working hard to make sure that the returning butterflies have the native plants—including milkweed—they need to thrive. They hosted a volunteer event in May that saw thousands of native seedlings (like wild bergamot and black-eyed Susan) planted across a hay field in Ontario.

Adult butterflies feed on the flowers’ nectar, so making sure that the monarchs have plenty of native wildflowers to get nectar from throughout the spring, summer and fall is important. Come fall, the monarchs that spent their summer feasting on these newly planted wildflowers will have the strength they need to fly south for the winter, which will help future generations thrive.

Earth Rangers is supporting this important work through the Bring Back the Wild Program, in which kids across Canada can raise funds to help this exciting project continue. To learn more about how to get your family involved, visit earthrangers.com/wildwire/monarch-butterfly/

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