Alabama’s state insect, the monarch butterfly, is endangered + how to help

Monarch Shelby rgb Alabama's state insect, the monarch butterfly, is endangered + how to help
Our state’s official insect is in danger. (Sara Bright / Alabama Butterfly Atlas)

Birmingham, we know of a creature that needs us to step up and help out. Alabama’s official state insect, the monarch butterfly, is now listed as an endangered species. Keep reading to find out what this means and how you can help these butterflies right from your own home.

Our favorite butterfly is in trouble

Monarch butterfly
Monarch art on hand-made paper by Woodlawn High School students. (Pat Byington / Bham Now)

The beloved insects that we see every spring and fall in Alabama are in trouble. According to National Geographic, the monarch butterfly population has declined by 23 to 72 percent in the last ten years. According to Axios, the Western monarch is in the greatest danger, but we should also be concerned about our butterflies in the East. This migratory butterfly is endangered mostly due to deforestation, climate change and the use of pesticides, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Alabama has a website, the Alabama Butterfly Atlas (ABA), to collect and share information on butterflies around the state.

“We are intentionally collecting flight times and locations for Monarchs, as well as documenting host plants, giving ID information and offering photos of life histories. It is our goal to educate and conserve Monarchs and all butterfly species in Alabama.”

Sara Bright, Author, “Butterflies of Alabama: Glimpses into Their Lives”

How you can help Alabama become a safe haven

IMG 6394 Alabama's state insect, the monarch butterfly, is endangered + how to help
Your backyard garden is the perfect place to start. (Selah Vetter / Bham Now)

Luckily, Birmingham has already been at work for years to help butterflies by establishing butterfly habitats. This includes:

You can help too—all you need is a place in your yard to grow some flowers to make your own monarch habitat. The butterflies, particularly when they’re caterpillars, have a favorite treat to make them grow. According to the Alabama Butterfly Atlas, you can find a sunny spot and plant one of these varieties of milkweed:

  • Butterfly milkweed
  • Common milkweed
  • Eastern whorled milkweed
  • Four leaf milkweed
  • Green milkweed
  • Pinewoods milkweed
  • Swamp forest/aquatic milkweed
  • Tropical/scarlet milkweed
  • Western swamp milkweed
  • White milkweed

Can’t find milkweed to plant? You can always look up other flowers that attract butterflies, like coneflowers and black-eyed Susans and limit your use of pesticides. Also, check out Alabama Cooperative Extension System for more information on lawn and garden care. You can also learn more from Ruffner Mountain and the Southern Environmental Center at Birmingham-Southern College.

“If you know a butterfly that’s been seen in your area that you would like to attract to your yard, just look it up in the ABA and add the host plant for it’s caterpillars to your yard. Many butterflies will also need nectar sources, so add plenty of those as well. You can find butterfly plants at native plant sales or ordering from native plant nurseries. The upcoming plant sales are listed on the homepage of the Alabama Butterfly Atlas. There are also lists of native plant nurseries in the gardening section of the ABA.  You can find lists of butterflies and their host plants in the gardening section of the ABA.”

Sara Bright, Author, “Butterflies of Alabama: Glimpses into Their Lives”

BONUS: 7 ways to replace your lawn in Birmingham with something more beautiful

Pick the perfect flowers

If you’re wondering where you can find butterfly-friendly flowers in Bham, you’re in luck because we have so many local nurseries and flower shops. Here are some of the best in town to shop at:

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Reviewed by Sharron Swain.

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Selah Vetter
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