Some caterpillars in gardens can be considered pests, as their voracious appetites mean they can make short work of plant life and undo months of hard work on your green space.
But monarch caterpillars are a welcome sight, with the monarch butterfly entering an endangered species list in 2022.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature added the monarch butterfly to its Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered, with population numbers decreasing because of habitat loss and global heating.
According to the IUCN, the western monarch population declined by as much as 99.9% between the 1980s and 2021. There was once an estimated 10 million of the migratory species in this region, but now there are only 1,914.
Among the reasons for this population decline, the IUCN cited increased drought preventing the growth of milkweed, the host plant that monarch larvae feed on, and causing more wildfires. It also suggested that extreme temperatures lead to earlier migration before milkweed has had a chance to grow, while severe weather has also killed millions.
“I’m watching out for these two as much as I can,” the Redditor commented on the post. “I have read that a. tuberosa plants are not favored by monarchs due to the fuzziness of the leaves, but these two seem to be chowing down on leaves and flowers.”
Other commenters were similarly delighted to see a couple of healthy, hungry caterpillars.
Anna Walker, a member of the IUCN SSC Butterfly and Moth Specialist Group and species survival officer at the New Mexico BioPark Society, said that while the decline is troubling, there are still ways to help the monarch species.
She advised planting native milkweed in gardens, while avoiding the use of pesticides, will also be beneficial. Natural alternatives like planting pollinator species to attract insects that eat pests is one solution, while wrapping aluminum foil around the base of plants is another unusual way to keep bugs at bay.
Since global heating is a factor for the increasing scarcity of monarchs, taking action to reduce planet-warming pollution is another way to help boost the population.
Making use of public transport, walking or cycling instead of using a dirty-fuel powered car to travel is just one way to make a difference, while electric cars emit zero tailpipe pollution when out on the road.
Switching to renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind, can also help to stop harmful gases entering the atmosphere and warming the planet.
Monarch caterpillars feasting on A. Tuberosa flowers in my not-lawn!
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