Reviving Monarch Butterfly Habitats

One of North America’s Most Iconic Creatures

Reviving Monarch Butterfly HabitatsThe life cycle and journey of the monarch butterfly is nothing short of amazing. Across multiple generations, monarchs make a 6,000-mile journey from Mexico in the spring, to the U.S. and Canada in the summer and back to Mexico in the fall.

Every fall, millions of monarchs travel thousands of miles from the central and eastern United States and Canada to central Mexico, where they overwinter at heights of 10,000 feet or more above sea level. While most monarchs only live for two to six weeks, this generation of monarchs will live for several months before they migrate back north to lay their eggs in early spring.

The Importance of Milkweed to the Great Migration

Reviving Monarch Butterfly HabitatsAs monarchs return north in the spring, they lay their eggs along the migration route to give way to new generations before the fall. The diet of monarch caterpillars consists solely of milkweed, which is also where monarchs exclusively lay their eggs, making it essential to their survival. After the caterpillar pupates and becomes an adult monarch, it will then feed on a more diverse assortment of nectar plants. Four to five generations of adult monarchs will be produced on the northward journey that spans from spring until late summer. The final generation produced in late summer will be the one to make the return journey south to Mexico during the fall. During this migration, the adults will feed exclusively on nectar.

Unfortunately, the monarch butterfly population has declined over the past two decades. Many factors, including the loss of milkweed in the United States, habitat loss in the Mexican forests, climate change and weather events are all thought to contribute to annual variations. Fortunately, monarchs are a resilient species. Even better, those of us in agriculture can play an important role in the effort to increase the monarch population. Helping monarchs has other benefits too as monarch habitat can support multiple other species including honey bees, native bees, and song birds.

Collaborating with Others

Reviving Monarch Butterfly HabitatsTo enhance the habitat for the monarch butterfly and other pollinators, Bayer is collaborating with conservation groups, academic experts, farmers and government agencies across North America to find meaningful and proactive ways to help these important pollinators thrive. In 2015, we announced a multi-year commitment to help monarch butterflies, and since that time, we have contributed over $5 million to partner with and support the efforts of experts working to benefit monarch butterflies. Many of those organizations are mentioned below. By working together, we can do more to efficiently move the needle.

A few of our partners include:

Monarch Watch

A nonprofit education, conservation and research program based at the University of Kansas, Monarch Watch focuses on the monarch butterfly, its habitat, and its spectacular fall migration. An annual grant since 2015 has enabled Monarch Watch to produce and make available milkweed plants free of charge for landscape improvement, including buffer strips on farmlands, roadsides, rights of way, parks, public lands and demonstration plots along the monarch’s migratory path, which stretches from Mexico to Canada.

National Fish & Wildlife Foundation

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s (NFWF) Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund helps support habitat restoration, education and outreach, and milkweed seed and plant production. With the 2015 $3.6 million grant, Bayer is helping to fund key programs and initiatives. From 2015 through 2017, the fund supported 68 projects that are providing significant amounts of new habitat, as well as engaging the many organizations and people needed to expand this effort into the future. During the first three years of the program, NFWF has leveraged the $3.6 million from Bayer with $7 million from other program partners and over $16.3 million in grantee match for a total conservation impact of more than $26.9 million.

Keystone Policy Center Monarch Collaborative

Keystone Policy Center Monarch Collaborative consists of national organizations representing farmers, ranchers and land owners; businesses working along the agricultural supply chain; researchers and academic institutions; federal and state entities; and conservation organizations. The Collaborative is utilizing the expertise and experience of its members to identify agricultural and conservation practices to support healthy monarch populations and promote the implementation of practices that will support monarch butterfly populations in agricultural landscapes. Members of the collaborative have partnered to create “Farmers for Monarchs” to connect agricultural and ranching landowners to resources enabling them to establish and maintain monarch and pollinator habitat.

The Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium

The Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium serves as a model framework for other state-level initiatives for planning and implementation of monarch conservation. Bayer contributes funding to help drive research efforts to create quality habitat, develop guidance and demonstrations for farmers to cost-effectively improve and expand habitat, and monitor milkweed and adult monarch populations to track progress.


Bayer and The Climate Corporation have partnered on an app hosted by Iowa State University that enables private citizens to enter data about Monarch habitat conservation efforts on their farms or in their yard. The data can help provide information on gains in milkweed in the United States. Data collected by HabiTally will be housed at Iowa State and shared with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help guide future conservation and protection decisions.

Pheasants Forever

Pheasants Forever is dedicated to the conservation of pheasants, quail and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public awareness, education, and land management policies and programs.

In 2015, Bayer committed $400,000 to support the planting of monarch and pollinator habitats at more than 70 Bayer research and manufacturing sites and facilities located in the monarch breeding range. This includes the creation of three Learning Center programs to demonstrate how to establish sustainable monarch and pollinator habitat, which is also the same habitat critical to upland birds. These programs engage, enroll and educate farmers and communities to contribute to a resilient monarch population. Additionally, a few Pheasants Forever chapters have received forage grants from Feed a Bee with the express purpose of establishing pollinator habitat and providing educational opportunities for the surrounding community. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are helping the next generation of conservationists through a Youth Habitat Program to develop a respect and appreciation for the land. Upland habitat projects are an ideal entry point for youngsters into the world of upland conservation.

Missourians for Monarchs Collaborative

The mission of the Missourians for Monarchs collaborative is to engage Missourians to increase and sustain habitat for monarch butterflies and pollinators through citizen involvement, and to seek ways for partners, communities and agencies to coordinate similar efforts. Its members consist of citizens, conservations and agriculture organizations, government agencies, utilities, agribusiness and non-profit organizations.

The Bee and Butterfly Habitat Fund

The Bee and Butterfly Habitat Fund works with private, public and corporate lands through the Seed A Legacy program by providing free, or heavily discounted seed mixes depending on the project size and pollinator seed mixtures, as well as guidance on how to prepare, establish and manage pollinator habitat for five or more years.

IVM Partners

Integrated Vegetation Management Partners, Inc. (IVM Partners) advises federal agencies and conservationists on best integrated vegetation management practices to restore habitat essential for survival of the Monarch butterfly, native bees and other pollinators, songbirds and wildlife. Bayer has invested over $500,000 in a project designed to improve and expand pollinator and wildlife habitats on public rights-of-way through integrated vegetation management. The project aims to improve habitats for pollinators, birds and other wildlife in upland and wetland ecosystems in sites across eight states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Oregon, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. IVM Partners is also the recipient of a Feed a Bee forage grant.

Project Apis m.

The mission of Project Apis m. is to fund and direct research to enhance the health and vitality of honey bee colonies while improving crop production, including the replacement of habitats that also benefit the monarch butterfly. In addition to the Healthy Hives 2020 research initiative, Bayer has an ongoing partnership with Project Apis m. to help restore the habitat of pollinators through education and the funding of field research initiatives.

Our Efforts to Restore the Monarch

1. Support research on habitat expansion and monitoring.

2. Plant milkweed along the monarch migration path.

3. Work with farmers and communities to increase the diversity of landscapes and provide more habitat for monarch butterflies.

What can you do to help the monarchs?

Reviving Monarch Butterfly HabitatsWe can all do our part to support monarch populations and their incredible migration. Together, we can ensure the future of this important species is a bright one. Learn more about what you can do and how to collaborate with others to help revive monarch butterfly habitats.