GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It’s a delicate dance and a flight for survival.
Every year, Monarch butterflies undertake an annual migration from Canada to Mexico, passing through the United States along the way.
“The Monarch is probably the most common and well-known butterfly in North America,” Jaret Daniels is curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History, which boasts one of the largest butterfly collections in the country.
Lately, he’s got Monarchs on the mind.
“We have to be more vigilant,” he said.
Monarch butterflies are in trouble. While their numbers ticked up in California in 2021, around most of the country, they’ve seen sharp declines. In the past 30 years, their numbers are down 80% in the East and 99% across the West.
“They’ve been petitioned for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act as ‘endangered,’” Daniels said. “The main significant driver is loss of breeding habitat.”
That habitat is milkweed, where the butterflies lay their eggs. To help create more habitat, the museum is turning… to beer.
“We have kind of a typical day in the brewery going on right here,” said John Denny of First Magnitude Brewing Company.
Inside the Gainesville, Florida brewery, a process is about to get underway to create a special beer for butterflies.
It’s not for the insects to consume, but for people.
“We've tried to tailor the beer to display something that relates to the butterflies,” said First Magnitude Brewing Company’s Simon McClung.
In some cases, their beers have used what’s on a butterfly.
“Our team went out and swabbed these butterflies that Jaret captured for us and isolated the yeasts that were present on their wings and grew them up,” McClung said, “and were able to use those to brew a batch of beer out of.”
The “Restore the Reign of the Monarch” program will use 25% of the beer sale proceeds from to restore butterfly habitat across the country. The website is set up and features a beer recipe, labels and educational kits for breweries around the U.S. that want to get involved.
“We want breweries far and wide to participate,” Daniels said.
The Monarchs’ reign may depend on it.
“It’s a warning that we’re not just talking about these rare species from foreign parts of the globe,” Daniels said. “We’re talking about species that are in our backyards that need help.”
It’s a help that will soon be coming from bottoms up for butterflies.