New pollinator toolkit!
Just like us, pollinators need food, shelter, water, and places to breed! The SDPA created a toolkit with all you need to know to establish pollinator habitat in your yard or garden. This includes garden design ideas, a plant list, information about pollinating insects and animals you might see in your neighborhood, and links to other helpful resources. The Pollinator Toolkit can be found by clicking here. See "Creating Pollinator Habitat" in the Pollinator Health Resources section at the bottom of the page.
Plant native milkweed
Milkweed is the host plant of the monarch butterfly – it is the sole food source of monarch caterpillars and the only place monarch butterflies will lay eggs. Without it, there would no monarch butterflies! We suggest including milkweed in any pollinator habitat planting, and we strongly encourage planting native milkweed instead of tropical or other non-native milkweeds. By native, we mean milkweeds that are found in our region – and San Diego County has several types of native milkweed. The most common, and commonly available, is Narrowleaf Milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis), though a few others can be found at some nurseries as well (such as Wooly Pod Milkweed (A. eriocarpa) and California Milkweed (A. californica).
The San Diego Pollinator Alliance is working on a project to create a source of San Diego native milkweeds – milkweeds sourced from wild populations – which we think will be more robust in home gardens than milkweeds sourced from other parts of the state. This milkweed will also be available for restoration and other pollinator habitat projects. More info in the Native Milkweed section here and watch this space for news of when these milkweeds will be commercially available! In the meantime, native milkweeds can be found at several nurseries in San Diego including Butterfly Farms, Native West, and Moosa Creek. And remember, when buying milkweed (or other pollinator plants) – make sure to ask if they have been treated with systemic pesticides. These chemicals get into the leaves, flowers, nectar, and pollen of plants, and are toxic to insects feeding off of them.
Observe monarchs year round!
The Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper is a collaborative project to map and better understand monarchs and milkweed in the western states, including California. Your help is needed in this effort! You can participate all year round by submitting photos of monarchs and / or milkweed (at any lifecycle stage) which will help researchers build a picture of when and where monarchs are breeding in the west. Learn how to submit your photos and data, and learn more about monarchs, milkweeds, and other ways to contribute to their conservation at https://www.monarchmilkweedmapper.org.
While enjoyable, rearing monarch butterflies is not an effective method for increasing their numbers. To the contrary, rearing more than just a handful of monarchs each year may cause more harm than good. Rearing monarchs can increase the spread of disease and can foster genetic adaptations that are detrimental to survival in the wild. There are also implications for our ability to understand natural monarch behavior and distribution. Finally, handing monarchs (which includes rearing them) is illegal in California. A Scientific Collections Permit (SCP) is required to handle or rear monarchs since they are listed on the California Terrestrial and Vernal Pool Invertebrates of Conservation Priority List. Learn more about the permit by clicking here!
Learn more about issues around rearing monarchs in this face sheet from Mondar Joint Venture!
Thank you to Mary Duffy and Christine Beck for all of the beautiful photos!