LAKELAND, Fla. - The monarch butterfly is disappearing and Lakeland officials are encouraging residents to take simple steps so the insects don’t go extinct.
They are beautiful and a gift from nature when they land in your yard. But, the monarch butterfly population has plummeted so drastically that they were just put on the endangered species list.
Scientists say the number of monarchs is half, or less, of what it was just ten years ago. Major contributing factors to their demise include development and habitat destruction.
"The population declines have been really terrible, almost bottoming out in California," Bill Koen, Horticulturist for the city of Lakeland, told FOX 13. "That’s why we’re encouraging the planting of milkweed."
Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed, and their caterpillars feed on it.
Experts also say you should also plant nectar plants in your garden which attract adult butterflies and provide food for them.
A Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) alights on a flower at the Chapultepec Zoo on March 19, 2015 in Mexico City. AFP PHOTO/Yuri CORTEZ (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP via Getty Images)
Aside from being a bit magical when they appear, monarchs help us grow food for us because they are pollinators.
"So that’s how you have fruits and vegetables," stated Beth Sherling with Lakeland Parks and Recreation. "We wouldn’t have anything without pollinators."
Currently, Lakeland has four butterfly gardens, including one at City Hall. It is planting two more gardens and encouraging homeowners to join in by planting milkweed.
It seems like the idea may be taking hold. Recently, the city was offering free milkweed plants.
"In one hour on a Thursday, we had 40 requests from the public for milkweed," Koen explained.
Planting a butterfly garden or even just a few milkweeds is a small investment that could pay off in a big way, according to Lakeland resident Susan Wools.
Wools hosts her own YouTube channel called "Butterfly Gardening Inspirations."
"If everyone in a neighborhood like this had five milkweed plants, it would make a huge difference." Wools stated.
Wools is doing more than her part. Her backyard is full of butterflies and the plants they love.