The iconic monarch butterfly is under threat from loss of habitat and pesticides, and I am one of countless people working in communities across the nation to help the monarch survive and thrive.
My advocacy for conservation of this species comes from a profound sense of gratitude. The beauty of monarch butterflies, and the engaging behavior of their caterpillars, helped me endure the most difficult four years of my life. I was my husband Alan’s caregiver through the wrenching years when he suffered from Lewy body dementia, the disease that led to his passing in December of 2020.
Six years earlier, he and I had established a monarch way station in our home garden. It consisted of about a dozen milkweeds, supplemented by additional nectar plants. Monarch butterflies soon began to visit and lay eggs, and their offspring inhabited our plants. Sometimes as many as a dozen or more little caterpillars lived right outside our door, mere steps away. I found that observing their behavior provided a respite, a distraction, a surge of joy, and such moments — especially as Alan’s condition became more dire — raised our spirits. I also kept my sanity by writing in a two-fold kind of journal, with accounts of our caterpillars and lessons I learned about being a caregiver. This is my next book project.
Our monarch avocation also gave my husband a sense of purpose by helping them survive. Sometimes we had to intervene when a caterpillar, a chrysalis, or a newly emerged butterfly was in trouble, and this included occasionally rescuing them from predators. For Alan, watching the monarchs go through their metamorphosis, a front row seat as the cycle of life unfolded daily, gave him a reason to face each day and carry on as long as he could.
A Celebration of Monarch Butterflies
As of April 13, 2021, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CAFW) has made it official on their website that monarch butterflies are a protected species. This is good news, because all recognition helps draw attention to the plight of the monarch and brings more advocates into our expanding circle.