Monarch on swamp milkweed. Photo: Michael Descamps

What? Why?

According to Monarch Watch the 2023-2024 overwintering eastern Monarch butterfly population was down 59.3% from the previous year and is the second lowest population ever recorded. Monarchs face many threats. In addition to their own natural predators there has been a loss of habitat, chemicals to control insects and weeds, and a changing climate that forces a change in migratory patterns. Read more about their threats here.


The Monarch Lady

Are you wondering what you can do about this Monarch situation? Do you love Monarchs? Well, Kay MacNeil REALLY LOVES them. She calls herself a “seriously deranged lover of caterpillars and butterflies!” She grew up in the 50s and collected caterpillars along with her friends. She played with them like they were teeny plush toys.

Fast forward to 2015 when she learned about the threatened predicament of Monarchs and how their numbers had declined over the decades. She thought, “what can I do about this?”

Soon thereafter she launched her Milkweed for Monarchs effort to inform people about how they could help provide the milkweed host plants for Monarchs. But, she didn’t stop there. She started growing milkweed plants, harvesting the seeds and giving them away to anyone who would take them.

There’s more. She now has numerous resources that are easily found on her website, will answer questions from how to raise a caterpillar to releasing a Monarch. Problems with your raise and release effort? Call Kay: (815)469-1294. She will call you back. Email her: She will respond.

Why Milkweed?

Milkweed plants are the only host plant Monarchs will lay their eggs on and that the caterpillars will eat. Beyond the common milkweed plant there are a variety of milkweed species that you can put in your garden or larger areas. For descriptions on species types and tips on where to grow them see this page.

Want milkweed seeds?

Find out how to get them here. Kay asks for a $3 donation to cover postage for three different types of milkweed seed packets, planting directions, and other important Monarch literature. Larger quantities are available for a donation that includes postage, handouts, coloring sheets for kids, and more.

What Else Do Monarchs Need?

They need food. Once the caterpillars have emerged from their chysallis they become the beautiful orange and black Monarch butterfly we all love. Nectar is their food and you can plant a variety of native wildflowers to attract them to your outdoor spaces: Black-eyed Susan, Pale Purple Coneflower, Purple Coneflower, Sawtooth Sunflower, several varities of Blazing Star (Liatris), Stiff Goldenrod, and see more here.


How Can I Help?

You can plant an abundant supply of milkweed and nectar plants. Click here to for ideas about how you can help bring back Monarchs specifically with milkweed plants.

Can I raise caterpillars?

Yes! Anyone can. Click here to learn how to raise caterpillars.


About Kay and her Milkweed to Monarchs Program by watching this 54 minute video: 2018 Update from Milkweed to Monarchs Video



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