Parks, Monarchs and Milkweeds
The monarch butterfly has gained national attention, due to a substantial decline in its population since the mid-1990’s. Over 80% of the monarch population has disappeared over the past two decades which is largely attributed to habitat loss. Similar to birds, the monarch butterfly has a two-way migration path and overwinters in the southern United States and Mexico. Coastal California and Mexico have seen increased development and deforestation causing monarch habitat loss. Also, across the United States, the use of herbicides and pesticides have negatively impacted the monarch butterfly and its habitat.
To help bring the Idaho state insect back, Boise Parks and Recreation (BPR) has made the commitment to conserve monarch habitat in the Boise area. Although adult monarchs nectar on a variety of flowering plants, milkweed is the only plant that female monarchs lay their eggs on and the only plant monarch larvae will feed on as it grows. BPR staff and volunteers have mapped existing milkweed stands throughout Boise parks and are working to protect and enhance these areas. Efforts are also underway to add milkweed to parks through planting and seeding.
To monitor the monarch butterfly in Boise's parks, BPR launched a citizen science program in the spring of 2016, called Parks, Monarchs and Milkweeds. Parks, Monarchs and Milkweeds engages volunteers in the monitoring of monarch breeding activity and milkweed habitat. The data collected by volunteers is compiled for inclusion in a national database. Although there are a number of organizations monitoring monarch activity, BPR chose to submit its data to the Xerces Society, which is located in Portland, OR, and focused on the western monarch.