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Milkweed and monarchs will get help from a locally started program

A monarch butterfly on a flowering plant. GETTY IMAGES/Ryan Fullerton/EyeEm

Milkweed is a small plant that plays a big role in our ecosystem.

Many animals, and monarch butterflies, which are in endangered levels here in Canada, depend on the milkweed to survive.

Luckily there is a new program that was developed here in our region. “We just launched a new citizen science program called Milkweedwatch.ca and the idea behind it is when people are out for a walk this fall or indeed next summer and they see a milkweed plant we want them to go on to their smart phone and record that to our database,” said Robert McLeman, Associate Professor of Geography & Environmental Studies at Waterloo University.

The milkweed population or the availability of milkweed “has been shrinking across North America in recent decades due to pesticide use, herbicide use, conversion of land to farm land and things like that,” said McLeman.

He adds that if we want to maintain the monarch butterfly population we need to keep an eye on the milkweed.

The monarch and milkweed populations will always be intertwined because monarchs lay their eggs on the milkweed plants, when the eggs grow into caterpillars, the caterpillars eat the milkweed.

Monarch populations have dropped 10 to almost 20 per-cent in the last 30 years.