The Importance of Butterfly Gardening

How your little garden can make a big difference...

by Hannah Atkinson, SCA Monarch Intern for Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

Pollinators across the country need your help! There is increasing evidence that many pollinators are in decline. Healthy populations of monarch butterflies and bees are a reflection of the health of the American landscape and the decline of these species is troubling. So why should we care about this decline in pollinator populations?

A Silver Spotted Skipper and a Karner Blue. Photo by Tim Stanley/Native Beeology.A Silver Spotted Skipper and a Karner Blue. Photo by Tim Stanley/Native Beeology

Butterflies are not only fun to watch but they serve a critical purpose as well. Butterflies and other pollinators including bees, moths, birds, and bats pollinate over 75% of the world’s flowering plants. Domestic honey bees alone pollinate approximately $19 billion worth of crops in the U.S. each year. We depend on what these pollinators do to help plants reproduce which helps strengthen ecosystems and maintain life sustaining biological diversity in nature.

A Hairstreak and a Yellow Swallowtail. Photo by Tim Stanley/Native BeeologyA Hairstreak and a Yellow Swallowtail. Photo by Tim Stanley/Native Beeology


Help the pollinators in your own backyard with SCA’s free Guide to Butterfly Gardening

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Habitat loss is one of the main contributors to the decline in pollinator numbers. Much of the lost habitat has been converted for agriculture, resource extraction, and urban development. Pollinators are negatively affected when large areas of habitat are broken up into isolated patches by such development. These habitat fragments do not provide enough of the food, shelter, and safety that these species need to survive.

A Orange Sulphur Aster and A Monarch. Photo by Tim Stanley/Native BeeologyA Orange Sulphur Aster and A Monarch. Photo by Tim Stanley/Native Beeology

But there is a way to help reverse this trend! You can create your own backyard pollinator habitat! Constructing your own pollinator garden provides food as well as a place for these critical creatures to live. Pollinators need all the help they can get and your garden will make a difference! Whether you live in a rural, suburban, or urban home you can help protect the environment and add beauty to your surroundings. Just be especially sure to use plants that are native to your region in order to have the most effective and productive garden.

A Crescent and a Frosted Elfin. Photo by Tim Stanley/Native BeeologyA Crescent and a Frosted Elfin. Photo by Tim Stanley/Native Beeology

Another benefit of creating a pollinator garden is that it’s a fun family activity, and a great way to help kids see that they can truly make a difference for environment.

Writer Hannah Atkinson with her fellow SCA Pollinator Interns at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado. Writer Hannah Atkinson (R) with a couple of her fellow SCA Monarch Interns.

Thanks to the Student Conservation Association and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service I got to work with youth groups in the area surrounding Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge to enhance pollinator habitat by removing invasive weeds and planting native flowering species. In this way, I’ve been able to educate children, and help them see that nature is an essential part of life. It’s one of the many ways Tom Wall and my fellow staff at the Refuge work hard to ensure a sustainable and healthy pollinator population for generations to come. 

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