A Good Start for Monarchs

The overwintering Monarch population in Mexico has increased. Let’s help them when they make their trip home to Canada!

The monarch butterfly boasts a 4,000 kilometre migratory trek – that’s 95 marathons! They begin their journey in the north, at the end of summer or early autumn. While western Monarchs aim to overwinter in California’s pine, cypress and eucalyptus trees, Monarchs east of the Rockies head to Mexico’s oyamel fir forests for the winter months.

Losses and Gains

The overall Monarch population has declined about 90 per cent since the 1990s. The Monarch was assessed as Endangered in Canada in 2016 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Species in Canada (COSEWIC).  The federal government has not yet decided whether to accept this recommendation and list the species officially as Endangered.

However, a recent count has shown that after years of declines, the number of Monarchs in the Mexican wintering area has increased.

© Donna Cook

“The latest assessments in Mexico show that 14 colonies of overwintering butterflies occupied a total area of 6.05 hectares of the oyamel fir forest,” says Carolyn Callaghan, Senior Conservation Biologist, Terrestrial Wildlife with the Canadian Wildlife Federation “This is a 144 per cent increase over the 2018 result, and the highest area recorded since 2006.”

The World Wildlife Fund Mexico in collaboration with partner organizations has been conducting the annual assessment of the oyamel fir forest since 1995.

The observed increase is thought to be due to favorable weather conditions across the eastern range throughout the spring, summer and fall of 2018. It may also be due in part to recent widespread and large-scale efforts across the US to restore thousands of hectares with milkweed and nectar plants.

“This is a much-needed and promising result indicating that Monarch did have the good year that many of us observed in southern Canada. However, millions of hectares of Monarch habitat have been lost in recent decades due to increases in herbicide use, changes in agriculture and other development. If positive Monarch population trends are to continue, then Canada needs to do its part in improving Monarch habitat at a landscape scale.”

Canadian Habitat is Key

A recent study using stable isotopes showed that a significant percentage of the Monarchs overwintering in Mexico originated in southern Canada. Yet Canada lags far behind in recovery efforts for the beleaguered species, says Callaghan.

Habitat restoration is already happening across the United States, where thousands of hectares of roadsides and utility corridors are being planted with milkweed and other nectar-bearing wildflowers to act as both breeding areas and fuel stops for migrating butterflies. State and federal departments of transportation, energy and agriculture are all actively involved.

The roadsides and utility corridors are also mowed and sprayed less, providing cost savings as well as crucial habitat for Monarch and many other pollinating insects. And now governments in the US are providing support for farmers to grow milkweed and nectaring plants to help the Monarch recover.

“CWF and dedicated partners are working hard to improve and increase habitat for Monarch in eastern Ontario,” she says. “We are hoping to expand our pilot project to help restore more of the migration network in southern Canada. With support from the Ontario Trillium Foundaton and the partnership of HydroOne, Lanark County, and the National Capital Commission, we are making habitat gains. With the partnership from the federal and provincial governments, we can play our part in restoring the Monarch migration network across the whole breeding range.” And that really would be good news for Monarchs.

Learn more about how CWF is helping the Monarch Butterfly and how you can get involved.

The Perfect Plants for Pollinators

We’re hearing a lot about our pollinators these days and the importance of avoiding pesticides, buying organic when feasible and minimizing bare expanses on our properties.

I’m all for some lawn to walk and play on but I also know how important it is to include flower beds, veggie gardens as well as trees and shrubs in your backyard. The larger the property, the more opportunity there is to increase this biodiversity. These plants (and their visitors) can add to your garden’s beauty, too!

Susan Biensch’s “Wildlife-friendly Habitat” certified garden
Susan Biensch’s “Wildlife-friendly Habitat” certified garden

Here are some plants that will support a wide variety of pollinators, from our many native bees and butterflies to the efficient Hover Flies as well as beetles, hummingbirds, moths and wasps. (Did you know many of our wasps are very tiny and only use their stingers to paralyze their prey which are often potential pest insect species?)

See which ones might suit your garden and visual appeal. As you look, notice how the different shapes suit different pollinators – for the size or ability to access the pollen and nectar.

Spring

Spring is a great time for many of our shrubs like Wild Plum and Apple that sport pretty blooms. Some smell lovely and all are a great food source for those pollinators that emerge at this time and are in need of food.

Summer

By the time summer arrives there is an increase of pollinators including more butterflies that are emerging from their dormant state or returning from their overwintering sites (as with Monarch Butterflies). Hummingbirds, too, are now back in many parts of the country although some warmer areas like British Columbia are fortunate to have them pretty much year round!

Autumn

Some pollinators are still active in the early and late autumn. The food from your flowers can make the difference in how well they survive winter or their migration south.

For more plant ideas, visit our Native Plant Encyclopedia, our Wildlife-friendly Demonstration Garden online maps or our Native Plant Nursery List.

Ban With a Plan: Join us to #BanNeonics

It’s in our wildlife. It’s in our fields. It’s in our food. It’s in our water.

And, it’s toxic.

“For years now, neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides have been poisoning our pollinators and aquatic insects. There are hundreds of scientific studies that have demonstrated the serious harm of neonics to pollinators. When I was a child, DDT was a serious threat to our wildlife. I am concerned that history is repeating itself.”

~David Browne, Director of Conservation Science,
Canadian Wildlife Federation

At the Canadian Wildlife Federation, we are working fiercely against the harmful effects of these pesticides. Watch the video to learn how neonics spreads through our environment. » Download the Infographic PDF

Our solution?

Ban With A Plan: A five step plan to remove this threat. Sign our “Ban With A Plan” Petition! »

Step 1: Ban the use of neonics.

The Canadian Wildlife Federation calls for a legislated, national ban on the use of all forms of neonicotinoid pesticides in agriculture, horticulture, turf production and golf courses. Under the ban, emergency use of neonics would be permitted for a limited number of years. However, this would only be under cases of severe pest outbreak and with a prescription from a certified agronomist.

Step 2: Give Farmers Alternatives and Incentives to Use Them

Share knowledge with farmers on alternate pesticides and pest management technologies and techniques – and provide incentives to use these, including crop insurance that protects farmers from crop failure for farmers who choose not to use neonics.

Step 3: Recover Affected Species

Recover species impacted by neonics, including wild bees, hoverflies, other insect pollinators and aquatic insects. Also help species experiencing the indirect effects of neonics due to reduced food availability, such as birds, bats and fish.

Step 4: Encourage Research and Development on Safer Pest Control Technologies

Support the development of pest-specific chemicals (or biological agents) with limited environmental effects – to encourage the development of longer term, directed products.

Step 5: Reform How the Government Protects Our Food Supply

Improve risk assessment methods for pesticides, including oversight and greater transparency in how pesticides are licensed and regulated, to ensure the seriously harmful pesticides are not licensed by the Canadian government. End the licensing of systemic pesticides.

  • Industry
    1. Develop pesticides that target particular agricultural pests, and refrain from producing systemic pesticides that are designed to be used prophylactically.
  • Consumers
    1. Sign the petition to support CWF’s plan to ban neonic pesticides
    2. Avoid buying garden seeds and plants treated with neonics, and garden or pet insecticides including neonics
    3. Avoid using household and gardening products that contain neonics

What You Can Do

Fruit seller
We’ve developed a five-step plan to not just ban neonics, but also help farmers, policy-makers and the environment recover from the devastating effects of this pesticide.

Sign the PetitionOur goal is to garner 100,000 signatures supporting the ban of neonics to the Minister of Health. This would support step one of the plan, moving us towards rehabilitating our environment from this neurotoxic insecticide.

We need to take action. All Canadians must and can be part of the solution: government, farmers, businesses, and consumers.

As Canadians, we can do better. We must do better.

Join with us. Sign the “Ban With A Plan” petition to support our plan for the future.

WANTED: Giant Lacewing! Report to iNaturalist on Your Nearest Device

We need your help to track down the Giant Lacewing (Polystoechotes punctata).

Giant lacewing wanted poster
Download and post on your favourite social media channel!

The Canadian Wildlife Federation and the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) are looking for this elusive species. It is an insect that kind of looks like a cross between a fly and a moth.

The experts at COSEWIC will be assessing its status. We are looking to citizen scientists to report any potential observation of this species to iNaturalist Canada.

i-What?

iNaturalist is a wildlife observation reporting tool that anyone can use. The free mobile app for Android or iOS is easy to use. Or you can add an observation directly on the website at iNaturalist.ca.

It’s very important that a good photo is submitted along with the observation since experts will need this to confirm the species. Equally important is the location you saw it, which the app will automatically add if your phone’s GPS is turned on.

What, Where and When

The Giant Lacewing was once widespread in Canada and beyond. However, it hasn’t been seen in the eastern parts of North America since the 1950’s. But the experts are optimistic it still exists here, just that it hasn’t been seen or reported. Here’s what to look for:

  • A mostly black insect that is between 2.5 to and 4 cm centimetres (about 1 to 2.5 inches) long
  • Mottled wings, which are held tent-like over the insect’s body
  • Most likely to be found in more remote areas
  • Attracted to artificial lights, such as light posts, outdoor restrooms and buildings.
  • Most common time of year to spot one is mid-June through to early August.

Experts from Canada and around the world are using iNaturalist to keep track of where species are found. This is a valuable opportunity for anyone to contribute directly to species conservation decisions — like this assessment of the Giant Lacewing.

turtle mobileNot Just Lacewings

Any observation of wildlife — animals, plants, fungi, molluscs and fish — is a valuable contribution to the knowledge of Canada’s biodiversity. Plus with iNaturalist.ca you can keep track of what you’ve seen and search the map for what others have found. iNaturalist can even help you with identifying what you’ve seen with its instant auto identification feature.

Learn more about iNaturalist.ca and other ways to connect with wildlife.

 

Variety is Life for Hummingbirds — Photo Gallery

Hummingbirds are famous for hovering in front of flowers and feeding.

They do this by beating their wings quickly — on average they rack up 50 wingbeats per second. And when flower nectar is scarce they eat tree sap from holes made by sapsuckers – a kind of woodpecker. In fact, hummingbirds are said to follow sapsuckers to take advantage of freshly made sap holes.

But that’s not all they eat! Did you know that, in addition to a safe supply of flower nectar for carbohydrates and minerals, they also need spiders and insects for protein? Hummingbirds also need trees for perching, hiding and nesting.

Here are some of the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s Photo Contest images showing Canada’s hummingbirds in their habitat.

Shelter

Canadian hummingbirds must have trees for nesting and resting. © Nadia Boudreau, CWF Photo Club
Canadian hummingbirds must have trees for nesting and resting.
© Nadia Boudreau, CWF Photo Club

They build their tiny nests using plant materials, such as thistle, cattail, willow, Dandelion and Eastern Cottonwood down, small feathers, bud scales and spider webs. Sometimes the exterior of their nests are covered with lichen, moss, dried flowers or little bits of bark. Females use their whole bodies to make their nests from placing items, stamping and weaving materials into place and pushing against the walls to shape it.

Trees and shrubs make good lookouts and resting (or stretching) spots, too.

Food

Hummingbird feeding © Tania Simpson
While sugar water feeders are a way to see these magnificent birds up close, flowers are their perfectly balanced food. © Tania Simpson, CWF Photo Club

In addition to different sugars and water, nectar also contains other compounds including amino acids. Hummingbirds feed from tubular shaped flowers, both large and small. And while they are generally attracted to the brilliant reds.

As to which flowers to visit when, studies show that hummingbirds can tell when a flower is at its peak in nectar production and they time their visits accordingly!

Some flower clusters grow along a spike like salvias, others as a tight flower head like Zinnias. For both, flowers will bloom in succession so don’t cut down old flower heads too soon, as there might be a few more flowers to feed a hungry hummingbird!

Bee Balm and Bergamot

Joe-pye weed and Zinnias

Columbine and Salvia

Cardinal Flower and Obedient Plant

Jewelweed and Lonicera vine

Learn more about hummingbirds and more of Canada’s avian friends at the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s Wild About Birds website.

Gardening with Kids Helps Them Grow — And Wildlife, Too!

Does your school have a garden? More and more educators are experiencing the magic that happens when a school garden becomes a dynamic teaching tool.

Gardening is one of the easiest and most accessible ways to connect with the natural world. No need for fancy equipment or even funding to travel on a bus. Even the most urban school with little greenery can add some seeds to a re-purposed pallet planter and have access to nature in their very own schoolyard. And with the right conditions, a school garden can help wildlife too.

Kids gardening

Outdoor Classrooms

The proven benefits and teachable moments of a learning garden are endless. Gardens create inclusive, group learning environments that can accommodate many different learning styles. Teachers can cover interdisciplinary subject matter and anticipate increased academic performance from their students — particularly in the sciences. Social skills improve as students, teachers, parents and community volunteers work together. A sense of school pride and community contribution results when students share garden lessons, fruit and veggies, or beautify the spaces they work and play in.

Teacher with kids gardening

Spending time in nature helps us to remember that we are a part of and not separate from the natural world. Given our busy, modern, screen-filled lives, it’s easy to forget our affinity for nature. Peer-reviewed studies have emerged to remind us that that being outdoors, or in some cases, even just looking at trees and plants have incredible health benefits. Of special note to educators — some benefits include improved concentration, reduced stress levels and speedier healing times, to name a few.

The earlier in life that kids get outside, the better – participating in outdoor nature activities at a young age with a trusted adult, like a teacher or family member, is one of the best predictors of a life-long conservation ethic.
The earlier in life that kids get outside, the better – participating in outdoor nature activities at a young age with a trusted adult, like a teacher or family member, is one of the best predictors of a life-long conservation ethic.

This has absolutely been true for me. I grew up in a family that pass down garden plants as heirlooms between generations. I have many memories of my parents, grandparents, aunts and cousins taking turns to help each other in our home gardens. One summer my mother pointed out a bee exoskeleton in the garden and I was hooked.

As educators, many of you are facilitating experiences like these for your students. Keep up the good work and please share your garden experiences in the comments below!

Benefits for Wildlife

A school garden is great for your students, you and other teachers at your schools, your community – and if the conditions are right, our wild neighbours can benefit too.

monarch catepillar
A garden free of harsh man-made pesticides and fertilizers is essential for pollinators and much healthier for your school community.

Your school garden can help some of our favourite garden allies – pollinators. Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators give us delicious foods, healthy ecosystems and help our economy. However, they face many challenges including habitat loss and alterations, pesticide use and climate change. As urban spaces increase to accommodate a growing population and its corresponding infrastructure and food demands, any garden that supports wildlife can make a big difference by creating safe wildlife habitat where there would otherwise be none.

All wildlife gardens need food, water and shelter. Pollinators need nectar and pollen rich blooms, preferably in a spot that has six or more hours of sun per day. A garden free of harsh man-made pesticides and fertilizers is essential for pollinators and much healthier for your school community.

If your school has concerns about an on-site garden, consider an alternate location, such as a nearby library or community center. Involve your students throughout the entire process – from selecting plants to monitoring wildlife that visits the garden.

For more information and guidance on school pollinator gardens AND to celebrate your good work by having your school garden officially certified as “Wildlife-friendly Habitat” by the Canadian Wildlife Federation, join our WILD Spaces for Schools program. You and your students can enjoy what might become a lifelong hobby — and help wildlife while you’re at it.

A Case for Pollinators in Canada

I’ve known that I wanted to be a biologist since I was 11 years old.

As a young girl, some of my fondest memories were the summers my family would go camping. I loved being in the woods. I loved connecting with nature and wildlife.

Many years later, I’m now on a team of dedicated wildlife scientists in Canada, working to develop long-term solutions for some of the most serious and complex environmental issues of our time.

One of these very important issues is the state of Canada’s pollinators.

Canada’s Pollinators are in Jeopardy

High-clearance sprayer working a canola field in Canada.
High-clearance sprayer working a canola field in Canada.

Pollinators — such as bees, butterflies and many others species — face real and serious problems including habitat loss, pesticide use and climate change. Insect pollinators are declining around the world. . Without pollinators, our food system will suffer.  We all need insect pollinators to thrive. But here at the Canadian Wildlife Federation, we are trying to give them a fighting chance.

How Are We Helping Pollinators?

Senior Conservation Biologist Carolyn Callaghan in the field.
Senior Conservation Biologist Carolyn Callaghan in the field.

Learning more. Research. Research. Research. We need to learn more about pollinators, how they’re coping in their current environments and what habitat improvements will help the most. We are initiating scientific research, in collaboration with one of the world’s leading entomologists Jeff Skevington, to determine what farmland habitats are optimal for insect pollinator abundance and diversity. The knowledge generated from this research will inform farmers on what habitats pollinators need to provide pollination services to their crops.

Make choices about the food they buy in order to support sustainable farming
Understanding the right choices in the market to support sustainable farming.

Savvy Consumers. Alongside research, a goal that we are working hard to develop, are markets for ‘pollinator-friendly’ foods and products. This approach is the most efficient way to make change quickly. When concerned consumers make choices about the food they buy in order to support sustainable farming, real change can happen.

This work will support wild pollinators which play an important role in food production.

Go Neonic Free

When you use systemic chemicals on plants of any kind (whether they’re in your backyard or in farmer’s fields), those chemicals seep into bees’ food sources. Researchers at York University studied the levels of neonicotinoids that Honeybees were exposed to in regions in Canada where corn is grown. It seems these bees were also exposed to the neonicotinoids for longer periods of time than originally believed – about four months to be precise – when they’re hard at work pollinating. They also found that worker bees died quicker than they would have if they hadn’t been exposed to the substance, clothianidin. Moreover, these same bee colonies had a higher risk of losing their queens.

 

In the end, I wanted to write this: Thank you for your outstanding support of Canada’s environment and the plants and animals that call it home…especially our incredibly hardworking pollinators. Together, we can revolutionize how our food is grown for environmentally sustainable farming, food security, and biodiversity conservation. This is not only possible; it is essential.Medallion Plants

Act today! Our friends at Medallion Plants are generously commitment to triple matching your donation, up to $40,000! Learn more.

Saving Water in Style

Make Rain Barrels a Fun Feature of Your Garden — Not an Ugly Tool to Hide!

With weather becoming highly changeable in recent years, it’s a good idea to be prepared for just about anything. Sure we can get sopping wet weather, but we can also get dry spells too. And those dry spells can last longer or happen more frequently nowadays. Keep your plants watered and save on water bills or wells by adding a rain barrel to your garden. The benefits are many — the least of which is no longer having to haul, drag and then recoil a hose pipe!

Spiral Tree Rain Barrel
Spiral Tree Rain Barrel @ epicpseudonym.deviantart.com/art/Spiral-Tree-Rain-Barrel-308026189

Set up the rain barrel by the house under the downspout that channels water from the eaves-trough. You can also add a rain barrel  if you have a larger garden with a shed. Read here for helpful tips in setting one up.

But don’t be turned off if the conventional plastic models don’t suit your style! There are new shopping options plus many ways to turn a potential eyesore into an attractive or funky element in any garden.

Cover Up

While there is nothing wrong with the plastic barrel look — especially when creatively surrounded by plants with texture and colour — you still might want to dress it up as with these covering ideas.

Vintage Charm

If you like the wood theme, consider reusing an old wine barrel. It’s a classic look that blends in beautifully with most any garden.

Rain barrel - vintage charm
Vintage Charm @ https://www.hgtv.com/design/hgtv-smart-home/2013/hgtv-smart-home-2013-deck-pictures-pictures

Painted Barrels

If you have an artistic side or want to give your kids a place to express themselves then check these out for inspiration!

New Styles

There are now more options when buying a rain barrel, from styled plastic to ceramic that also allow for plants grown at the top.

Whatever the garden or location, a rain barrel can be a fun, attractive addition to your space, and a great step toward making your garden wildlife-friendly!

How to Make Super Simple Plastic Bottle Planters

Did you know that April 22 is Earth Day? This year’s theme is Plastic Pollution, so we’ve created an activity that can upcycle a plastic bottle you already have at home. Before we get started, here are some important facts on plastic pollution.

Plastic is a material that was invented by people, only about a hundred years ago. It’s useful for many things. But a lot of plastic items are designed to be used only once, and then thrown away. Think of plastic bags, straws or takeout cups from coffee shops. That’s a lot of plastic garbage.

And a lot of it ends up in the ocean. Even plastic that has been properly thrown in the trash and taken to the landfill can be carried by wind and rain into the water, and eventually into the ocean.

This causes big problems. If a sea turtle sees a plastic bag, it might mistake it for a jellyfish, its favourite food. When it tries to eat the bag, it will choke. And sea turtles are just one of the many sea creatures that end up eating plastic: birds, fish, sea lions and whales do it too. (See our Food Chain Nesting Dolls for more information on what sea creatures should be eating).

Unlike organic waste, plastic takes years and years to break down. Even when it does break down, you end up with an ocean full of teeny tiny bits of plastic, like a huge cloudy plastic soup. These microscopic pieces of plastic are eaten by plankton, which are then eaten by fish, and so on up the food chain.

How can you help reduce plastic pollution?

Check out our collaborative playlist for tips.

  1. Use a reusable water bottle instead of buying water in plastic bottles.
  2. Use a reusable metal straw (or no straw at all) instead of a disposable plastic one.
  3. Use reusable grocery bags instead of plastic bags.
  4. Put your lunch in a reusable container instead of using plastic wrap.

Plastic in the ocean is a terrible problem. But there are things we can do to help. If we all make changes, we can help fix this problem. Make every day Earth Day!

Here is a fun and easy way to reuse a plastic bottle!

These are the basic instructions for creating your very own Peekaboo Cat or Dinosaur planter. Inspired to create another character? The sky’s the limit!

Supplies for plastic bottle planters

Supplies

  • Empty plastic bottle (any size)
  • Masking tape
  • Googly eyes
  • Fine sandpaper (300+ Grit)
  • Recycled buttons or other decorations
  • Glue stick or hot glue (low setting)
  • Plant and soil
    • Aquarium gravel to assist with drainage (optional)
  • Acrylic paint and/or spray paint for plastic
    • In green, blue or white (depending on craft)
    • Paint brush
  • Chalk marker or permanent marker in black (and pink for Peekaboo Cat)
  • Utility knife and scissors
  • Glue

Instructions

Note: Have an adult use the utility knife, spray paint, scissors and hot glue. Leave the decorating to the kids!

How to make plastic bottle planters

Map out the Shape

  • Use the masking tape to tape a line around the bottle. This will give you a straight line to cut.
  • Dinosaur: Use the chalk marker to draw out the neck of the dinosaur above the masking tape line. Tip: Chalk marker can wipe off easily later.
  • Peekaboo Cat: Use the chalk marker to draw the ears above the masking tape line.

How to make plastic bottle planters

Cutting

  • Pierce a hole in the bottle with a utility knife. Tip: keep the blade retracted, only exposing the tip for more control.
  • With scissors roughly cut out your shapes.
  • After the top of the bottle is removed go back around and clean up the edges.

How to make plastic bottle planters

Sanding and Painting

  • Lightly sand the outside of the bottle to roughen the surface. This will help the paint to stick. Wipe clean (make sure bottle is clean and dry).
  • Paint the bottle with chosen shade of acrylic paint, this will take several coats. Tip: use a hair dryer to speed drying between coats. Spray paint made for plastic can be used if you already have a can at home.

How to make plastic bottle planters

Attach Accessories

  • Dinosaur: Use glue to attach googly eyes and button decorations.
  • Peekaboo Cat’s eyes are made of two different sized buttons attached together (the bottom painted bright green, the top black).

Details

  • Draw in mouths (use pink marker for Peekaboo Cat and black for the dinosaur), noses and toes.

Planting

  • Add aquarium rocks to the bottom of the planter if desired. Then fill with soil and plant.

How to make plastic bottle planters

Post a comment down below if you and your family plan to make one of these plastic bottle planters for Earth Day. Make sure to take a picture and share it with us if you do!

This post was written as part of an Earth Day collaboration between the Canadian Wildlife Federation and Super Simple.

Monarch Butterflies Hit Hard This Winter

The latest news on the Monarch Butterfly is cause for deep concern.

Surveys conducted this winter in the Mexican Highlands, where the bulk of the Monarch population overwinters, has revealed that the Monarch population dropped 15% from December 2016 to December 2017.

The population now occupies only 2.48 hectares (ha) of land. Since the counts were initiated, the greatest amount of land occupied was 18.19 ha. The current area of occupation represents a decline of almost 90% since the highest count in 1996. The figure below provides details of the overwintering counts.

monarch overwintering population in mexico
The graph depicts ups and downs in the population over the years, which likely was normal for this species. However, the downward trend without recovery years is very concerning. Over the past six years, the three lowest populations ever were recorded!

Why are Monarchs Declining?

monarch on orange flower

Scientists have listed the main cause of the decline to include habitat destruction on both breeding and wintering habitat. Also, use of pesticides and herbicides on agricultural lands, and climate change impacts have hurt this species. More recent research in the U.S. points the finger at yet another issue: diminished sources of nectar-rich plants along the migratory pathway. Nectar is the fuel that Monarchs need on their incredible journey from Canada to their overwintering grounds. Monarchs need to refuel regularly. The loss of nectaring wildflowers along their migratory path makes it hard for Monarchs to restore their depleted energy reserves. It would be similar to the removal of about one half of all gas stations along our vacation route. We would have difficulty refueling and might run out of gas.

Why did the Monarch Population Decline this Year?

Many of you rejoiced last summer when you saw many adult Monarchs flying in southern Canada. It seemed to be a banner year, especially in Ontario and Quebec. Here at the Canadian Wildlife Federation, we held hope that this would be a recovery year. So what happened to the population? One of the main culprits was the fall hurricanes that struck the southern U.S. this fall. Another culprit was the warmer than usual weather, which delayed migration in some parts of Canada and the United States. Both may have also contributed to reduced numbers in 2017.

Climate change brings extreme weather and increasing variability in weather. Climate change scientists predict increasing extreme weather events and more variability of weather. This will not likely be an advantage for the struggling Monarch population.

What is Being Done About the Decline?

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), which is tasked with assessing species and recommending listing to the federal government, has recommended that the Monarch be listed as Endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act. In Ontario, the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO), the group of experts tasked with listing species under the province’s Endangered Species Act, will likely decide this year whether to list the Monarch as Endangered. An endangered listing will spark the creation of a Recovery Strategy with specific conservation action plans.

In addition to government action, there is plenty of good science happening for Monarchs. Maxim Larrivée’s team at the Montreal Insectarium and colleagues are researching whether milkweed is limited in Canada. Milkweed is the host plant that Monarch larvae depend on for survival, and there are several species of Milkweed in Canada. The results of this research will help us to understand the impact of changing land use on Monarch as well as whether we should target restoration of milkweed host plants to aid the recovery of Monarch.

Monarchs grouped

On other science news, a Canadian study led by Tyler Flockhart determined that habitat in Canada contributed a relatively high proportion of the overwintering Monarchs in Mexico, considering Canada comprises a small portion of the total range of Monarch. The research team looked at chemical isotope signatures from Monarchs on the overwintering habitat to determine where the butterflies were born in the previous summer and fall. They found that 12 per cent of the insects were born in the northwestern U.S. and Canadian Prairies, 17 per cent in the north-central States and Ontario, 15 per cent in the northeastern U.S. and the Canadian Maritimes.

What is CWF Doing for the Monarch?

It will take large scale restoration efforts to increase breeding and nectaring habitat. The Canadian Wildlife Federation is forming partnerships with right-of-way corridor (e.g. roadways and hydro-electric) managers to conduct habitat restoration trials, including:

We aim to document the cost and conservation benefits of restoring Monarch habitat, which will inform restoration practices at a large landscape scale.

CWF also continues to engage school groups and citizens like you to plant milkweed and native wildflowers to provide for Monarch during breeding and migration. Everyone can help to restore Monarch habitat!

Let’s Do More for the Monarch!

To compensate for ever increasing impacts of climate change and agricultural intensification, habitat restoration throughout breeding and overwintering habitat will need to overachieve conservation outcomes. In other words, restoration efforts will have to be bigger and better than ever before. It will take a concerted effort of federal, provincial, federal governments as well as private landowners to make this happen. Together, we have to knock it out of the park for the Monarch!

Learn how you can Help the Monarch!