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K-State Research and Extension

Kansas kids learn to protect monarch butterflies


What we are doing

Nearly two dozen Kansas 4-H'ers are stepping up to increase the odds of survival for the monarch butterfly, an iconic insect that is fluttering toward becoming an endangered species. Fueled by a $20,000 grant from the National 4-H Council, they are teaching a class called “Monarchs on the Move” to youth and others in their communities, encouraging them to plant and preserve milkweed – the major food source and breeding ground for monarch butterflies.

A sharp decline in monarch butterfly numbers in recent years has led several groups to petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the butterfly as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The agency will make a ruling on the petition in June 2019.

Our Impact

After receiving training in late February, Kansas 4-H'ers went to work helping to educate their communities preserve milkweed in local landscapes. By early summer, they’d already taught lessons to nearly 1,000 other kids and even some adults on the best ways to build a habitat in which monarch butterflies can thrive.

There are 22 Kansas 4-H'ers teaching the classes in which students learn about the life cycle and the often miniscule chance of survival for the monarch butterfly. Near the end of the class, students plant their own milkweed, which they take home to re-plant in their own backyard.

The 4-H'ers have initiated a project at Hays High School where they will plant several hundred milkweed plants in an outdoor classroom. This summer, the group of teens spoke to their peers at the annual 4-H Discovery Days event in Manhattan, and they presented “Monarchs on the Move” during the Kansas 4-H Insect Spectacular at the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, among other speaking engagements.


Read the full story on the K-State Research and Extension News page. 



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“There are many skills that they are gaining through this process. It’s been fun to watch the confidence that they’ve gained.”

- Susan Schlichting, Ellis County extension agent and co-coordinator of the Kansas 4-H program, “Monarchs on the Move”