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Queen Butterfly photograph by Craig Chaddock, Mission Trails Regional Park

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Advocating for Monarchs and Native Milkweed

Audubon Advocates at the Native Plant Fair

In the spring of 2021, the San Diego Audubon Advocates’ native plants group started brainstorming on ways to encourage the planting of native milkweed to help monarch butterflies. The use of tropical milkweed, which is readily available at local nurseries and grows easily year-round in San Diego County, has negatively impacted the monarch butterfly population. Non-native milkweed does not become dormant during winter months here and that allows parasites to grow and then hurts the caterpillars’ life cycle. The group identified several reasons why native milkweeds were not being used by community members and wanted to create awareness about the harm non-native milkweed is doing to the monarch population.

Over the course of the advocacy training program the group studied strategies to build a campaign about the benefits of planting native milkweeds. This culminated with the creation of a zine (a small and creative self-published piece used to communicate information) designed by one of the group’s members to distribute at events and is given out with native narrowleaf milkweed seeds attached to it.  Kim Cruz, the advocate who designed the zine commented, "The zine is all about making the information accessible, easy to understand, and even a bit fun. I was happy to be able to combine art and science for the cause to help save monarchs."

It is the long-term goal of the group to get zines and seeds into the hands of community groups, native seed libraries and distributed at local events. The first event the group was able to engage in community advocacy was at the California Native Plant Festival in Balboa Park in October 2021. Since that time, they have brainstormed on other ways to distribute the zine including translating it into a Spanish version. The group hopes that the zine will inspire community members to plant native milkweeds while warning about the damage non-native milkweed can do to our monarch populations.

“It was challenging to create an advocacy campaign during the pandemic but technology and sheer determination helped us move forward to completing our goals,” said C.J. Dennett a 2021 advocate trainee and native plants group member. “We wanted to create an impact, but also needed to stay focused and figure out ways to promote our message to the community in an affordable and creative manner, the zine was ideal for that purpose.”   The group hopes to continue the work to promote native milkweed and looks forward to growing relationships with community partners and future Audubon Advocates in 2022.

If you are interested in obtaining copies of the zine, as well as seeds, to distribute to your community, please reach out to us at Nativeseedlibrary@sandiegoaudubon.org.

For more information on the importance of native milkweed, and where to find it, see below:

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