The monarch butterfly is well known for its long distance annual migrations to and from overwintering sites in Mexico, a voyage reaching upwards of 2,000 miles. The journey north may take four or five generations, with the final generation making the long trek home. These long distance flights take a tremendous amount of energy and require many stops to replenish weary butterflies. Not only is food important, but the monarchs also need breeding sites to sustain their successive generations along the way.
The research is largely focused on generating information to help landscape managers at golf courses, parks, horse farms, commercial and institutional landscapes, and other urban areas to convert unused spaces into low-input pollinator sanctuaries. It is also aimed at helping to support growers, home gardeners, garden groups and others interested in monarch conservation.
The iconic monarch butterfly has been in steady decline over the past few decades. This is in part due to environmental pressures including habitat loss and fragmentation, and the dwindling availability of milkweed and nectar plants. Milkweed is not only important to monarchs because of the chemical protection it provides, but it also is the only group of plants on which the caterpillars can develop.