Climate change: What it means for monarchs

Last night, a sold-out crowd filed their way into The Franklin Institute for the opportunity to listen to and participate in “A Conversation with Bill Nye!” With global temperatures on the rise, Bill Nye addressed his concerns and new ideas regarding climate change and what we all can do to combat a wetter and hotter Philadelphia.

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Bill Nye and Maiken Scott

Climate change not only affects people, but it can affect even the smallest of wildlife species, including monarch butterflies and other pollinating insects. While warmer climates could initially prolong monarch breeding in the summer months, it could cause a northern shift in breeding grounds and potentially lengthen an already treacherous migration. Monarch caterpillars are particularly sensitive to warm temperatures above 84℉ and are usually found taking cover under the leaves of their milkweed host plant on warmer days.

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A monarch caterpillar munching on milkweed

Additionally, overwintering sites in Mexico would be unsuitable in a warmer climate. While higher elevations would be the next likely option for monarchs to overwinter, forests outside of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve have diminished and would require decades to regenerate. With a 90 percent population decline due mostly to habitat loss, rising temperatures would only add another hurdle for monarchs to overcome.

Migration routes

Migration routes

In an effort to spread the word about the effect of climate change on monarch butterflies, my coworkers and I attended “A Conversation with Bill Nye” at The Franklin Institute and gave those in attendance an opportunity to create seed balls. By combining clay, seeds, and soil, you make a quick and easy seed ball that you can essentially throw anywhere!

Seed balls containing native wildflower and grass seeds can be tossed into any open, sunny area to improve monarch habitat and combat climate change. Over 300 seed balls were created by those in attendance and we distributed even more milkweed seeds. With the creation of monarch habitat and more green spaces, we are one step closer to a pollinator friendly Philadelphia.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Staff pose for The Pulse

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