monarch butterflies

St. Louis city hall now has monarch habitat certified by the National Wildlife Federation.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

The city of St. Louis is being recognized by the National Wildlife Federation as a leader in the effort to restore the monarch butterfly habitat.

Lincoln Brower

Last Friday, the St. Louis office of the National Weather Service picked up something pretty unusual on its radars.

As first reported by Citylab’s John Metcalfe, meteorologists detected a cloud-like formation that kept moving around and changing into odd shapes. After some analysis, they concluded that the “cloud” was in fact a giant swarm of monarch butterflies, headed south on its annual migration to Mexico.

Mockup of the milkweed balloons
Provided by the Pulitzer Arts Foundation

Activism can take unexpected forms. This past weekend, naked and nearly naked bicyclists took off from St. Louis’ Grove area to circle the city to encourage renewable energy use, positive body image and bike safety.

On Wednesday evening, a Chicago artist will hand out balloons in Grand Center in an effort to preserve the Monarch butterfly population. Milkweed seeds inside the balloons are the key.

Lincoln Brower

The City of St. Louis and several partners are launching a project to help monarch butterflies.

It involves encouraging area residents to plant milkweeds -- a plant with large fruit pods that release fluffy seeds in the fall.

The Saint Louis Zoo is one of the partners in the “Milkweeds for Monarchs” initiative, along with the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The zoo's curator of invertebrates, Edward Spevak, says milkweeds are critical to the monarch’s survival.

Lincoln Brower

Every year, monarch butterflies undertake what seems like an impossible journey.

By the millions, they leave their summer breeding grounds in the United States and Canada to fly thousands of miles to a small area of alpine forest in central Mexico.

Ecologist Lincoln Brower has been studying monarchs for almost 60 years.