FOREST CITY, Iowa - Monarch butterflies, which were a common sight to see, have seen a large population decline over the last few decades.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the 2015 monarch count found the population at around 42 million, the lowest since surveys began in 1993. In the coastal areas of California alone, the population of Western monarchs plummeted by 82% since late 2017. The main causes of this decline: pesticides and loss of habitat.
Fortunately, after many years of decline, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature has found that the monarch butterfly population is starting to increase. And two Forest City sisters and some of their friends and family are joining in to help that cause.
Jamie Kite and Jessica Hahn are raising butterflies in their homes. They scout for eggs on milkweed plants, and bring them back in order for them to grow from caterpillars into butterflies. Once they reached the maturity stage, they are then released.
Kite says the idea came from one of her daughter's school projects.
"We enjoyed it, and decided this is something we could do to give back, and it's relaxing, and...the rest is history. And I slowly taught my friends and family."
Hahn says they take great care in order for the population to thrive.
"We're pretty cautious of chemicals that we use around the milkweed. We don't use any weedkillers or mosquito spray."
If interested in starting your own habitat, Kite and Hahn strongly advocate planting milkweed and other natural plants, and to steer away from pesticide and chemical use. In addition, if there is a natural habitat such as a ditch (which is a common spot to find milkweed), Kite advises to not mow through the area.