How to help bring the monarch butterfly back to Michigan

A new plan aims to protect monarch butterflies in Michigan.{ }(Photo: WEYI/WSMH)

A new plan aims to protect monarch butterflies in Michigan.

Jessica Gilbert lives in Midland County and loves monarch butterflies. She even wrote a book about them.

At her home in Larkin Township north of the City of Midland, it might look like there's a lot of weeds in her yard, but these plants are here for a reason.

"I’m hesitant to pull a lot of things out because I don't always know what they are, and part of me is like maybe this is a host plant for something native because it's growing naturally, and to me that's just as exciting as something that you can pick up at a greenhouse," said Gilbert.

Milkweed plants are the perfect breeding ground for monarch butterflies.

She said she saw her first monarch of the year this morning.

"As I watched her, I could see her stop and pause and go to another one and stop and pause and I thought I might have eggs and I went out and checked and I did,” exclaimed Gilbert.

Elly Maxwell is an entomologist who works at Dow Gardens.

Maxwell says the monarch population has declined drastically and some reports show a decrease of 80 percent.

She says people like Gilbert can play a big role in protecting these butterflies.

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"Individuals sometimes can rear monarchs and that actually takes them in and gets them out of the way of parasites and predators,” explained Maxwell.

Gilbert does just that.

She'll collect the eggs and take them inside, where in a few days she will have caterpillars, and in less than a month, she can release monarchs back to the wild.

"There's something very cool about seeing that transformation and that butterfly coming out and letting her or him go and they go off on their journey and monarchs from Michigan ultimately migrate to Mexico. It's cool to be a part of that," Gilbert added.

The Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife is seeking public comment on a plan to protect butterflies.

You can find more information on how to help butterflies here.