BACKGROUND: People can help preserve the monarch butterfly by participating in a program to set up 10,000 "waystations" in backyards and gardens across the U.S.
THE PROBLEM: The population of monarch butterflies is deteriorating rapidly ý down to one-tenth of its peak in 1996 -- thanks to urban sprawl and the use of herbicide resistant crops. Monarchs lay eggs on milkweed plants, and larvae feed on the plants until they become adult butterflies. Adults drink nectar from flowers. But the critical milkweed and nectar sources are declining.
THE WAYSTATION PROGRAM: Every spring and fall monarch butterflies migrate: they head to Mexico for the winter and migrate back to the U.S. for the summer for breeding. By setting up "waystations" for monarch butterflies along the migration route, people can make sure the insects have enough food to survive the trips, and their numbers will begin to increase.
ABOUT METAMORPHOSIS: Insects like the monarch butterfly change into very different forms as they grow, and this process is called metamorphosis. The process begins when a butterfly lays an egg on the bottom of a leaf near the top of the host plant. The eggs hatch a few days later, then go through three stages: larva (caterpillar), pupa (when the larva hibernates in a sac), and adult. Monarchs go through the entire process in about three months, but some species of butterfly can take as long as several years to go from the egg to adult stage.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED: Get your own waystation kit online at www.monarchwatch.org, or by calling 1-800-780-9986. Kits contain seeds for milkweeds and nectar plants.