Monarch Butterfly Summit hopes to help conserve the species

The Monarch Butterfly relies on milkweed plants to survive, and you can help it's loss of habitat by planting it on your property. (WCHS/WVAH)

The Monarch Butterfly is one of the most well-known of its kind, mainly due to its range across the country, beauty and size.

It’s also our state’s butterfly.

They are commonly seen right here in West Virginia between the months of June and September--before they head back south to Mexico for the winter.

But this migration isn't what it used to be.

"The Monarch Butterfly has seen serious declines in the last 20 years; to the extent of being considered for inclusion on the federal endangered species list--as threatened, is the petition", said Susan Olcott—a regional diversity biologist with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

DNR biologists, teachers, company owners, farmers and even private landowners visited Jackson’s Mill in Lewis County recently for the 1st annual Monarch Butterfly Summit. Not only the 1st one in West Virginia, but the entire Northeast!

The idea is to spread awareness about the Monarch Butterfly, and how to help it's shrinking habitat--in hopes of preventing a federal endangered tag.

"The Fish and Wildlife Service has a process whereby--when they are making this decision, and the decision is due of June 2019, so it's about a little over a year off--if enough conservation is in place, even though listing may be warranted, they can defer listing because there's already enough effort going in to help it out", said Olcott.

The main thing that these butterflies need? A group of plants called milkweed.

Olcott says West Virginia has plenty of milkweed, but it needs to be managed the right way to help the butterflies out--especially during the summer months.

"This is something that occurs in your backyard that you can help with. You can plant milkweed in your backyard. You can choose not to mow it (milkweed). You can choose not to use broad spectrum pesticides”.

This is especially important for our region, as Olcott says West Virginia is part of the key ‘north core'.

"Most of the monarchs in Mexico--that overwinter--are from this north core area, so we are significant in the survival of the species. We know what needs to be done--we know exactly what needs to be done. What I’d like people to take with them is awareness--that this is an issue that you can help with".

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