A graduate student from the University of Chicago conducted a study to show that monarch butterflies raised in captivity don’t migrate like their wild counterparts. This suggests that raising butterflies indoors for eventual release may not benefit the species as much as efforts to preserve their natural habitats.
The study tested both commercially-bought and wild-caught monarch butterflies and found that when raised indoors, butterflies from both backgrounds didn’t migrate south.
Wild monarch butterflies participate in an annual two-way migration in North America from Mexico to Canada to avoid cold temperatures. According to the Indiana Wildlife Federation, Indiana is an important “flyway” for the butterflies during migration.
However, the species has seen an estimated 80% decline in its population in the last 20 years as a result of overwintering and breeding habitat loss. The federation says people can help by urging their mayor to sign the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge, which is a commitment to support monarch habitats.
Other ways to help include avoiding the use of pesticides and planting milkweed, a common food source and shelter for monarch eggs.