The declining butterfly population is a more serious problem than many people realize. Butterflies are an important part of the ecosystem. They play the critical role of pollinator in plant reproduction. Plus, their extinction upsets the natural order of the food chain.
The decrease in the global number of butterflies is also an indication of some much greater problems going on in the world today. Some of the factors contributing to the declining butterfly population include the destruction of their natural habitat due to real estate development (about 6,000 acres a day), deforestation, global warming, and the widespread use of pesticides (especially those used for genetically modified crops).
There are now several organization dedicated to preserving butterfly populations. Many groups focus on restoring habitats, but some scientists are going as far as raising butterflies in captivity to be reintroduced back into their natural habitats.
One of the best known groups dedicated to the plight of the disappearing butterfly is Monarch Watch. In 2005 the group launched its Monarch Waystation program to encourage individuals, businesses, and local governments to plant indigenous milkweed in gardens, parks, zoos, and nature centers and around schools, businesses, roads and other unused plots of land. Milkweed is vital to butterflies. Female butterflies lay their eggs on its stems and leaves, and when the caterpillars hatch they feed exclusively on milkweed. Monarch Watch has already helped establish more than 1,000 waystations in 43 states. To learn more, visit http://monarchwatch.org/.
Even if you don't plant an official waystation, milkweed is always a great addition to a garden. Your flowers, and the butterflies, will thank you.