As news about monarch butterflies appeared the week of July 22 2022, a post to the Facebook group “Addicted to Gardening” claimed that readers could send a self-addressed stamped envelope to a group called the Live Monarch Foundation and receive an envelope of milkweed seeds in return.
On July 21 2022, reports appeared that monarch butterflies, once ubiquitous throughout North America, had been classified as “endangered” by conservation groups:
The monarch butterfly fluttered a step closer to extinction [on July 21 2022], as scientists put the iconic orange-and-black insect on the endangered list because of its fast dwindling numbers.
“It’s just a devastating decline,” said Stuart Pimm, an ecologist at Duke University who was not involved in the new listing. “This is one of the most recognizable butterflies in the world.”
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature added the migrating monarch butterfly for the first time to its “red list” of threatened species and categorized it as “endangered” — two steps from extinct.
The group estimates that the population of monarch butterflies in North America has declined between 22% and 72% over 10 years, depending on the measurement method … The United States has not listed monarch butterflies under the Endangered Species Act, but several environmental groups believe it should be listed.
As for the image in circulation, it appeared to have been screencapped from an October 28 2021 Facebook post (featuring the same words and punctuation), shared to the public group “The Beautiful Monarch.”
Searches to determine whether the initiative was accurately described (and still operating) led to the website LiveMonarch.com. Its brief mission statement explained:
Welcome to the Live Monarch Educational Foundation, Farm and National Movement
Mission Statement: We offer education, involvement, assistance and acknowledgment of persons directly acting to benefit the Monarch Butterfly and various native creatures who have suffered a decline in their natural habitats.
Directly under that was undated text suggesting that the milkweed seed program might have been a bit more popular than the group had anticipated:
We have moved to North Georgia and are creating a new facility. We are testing new growing methods to provide several varieties of Milkweed plants – Staff will update the site when plants are available. We planted lots of Milkweed so keep your fingers crossed for their success.
Further down the page, additional text indicated that the milkweed seed program was not necessarily “free” — and that donations of nominal fees would advance the organization’s efforts to benefit monarch butterflies:
FREE / LOW COST Milkweed SEED and SMALL CONTRIBUTION PAGE (3 types of milkweed seed currently offered) snail Mail or quick online purchase of milkweed seeds or orders sent by US mail.
At the top of the site, a navigation bar tab was labeled “fun activities.” One of the links was to a page titled “free milkweed seeds,” once again with text suggesting that the operation could benefit from donations to support their efforts:
Free Butterfly Garden Seeds if you have visited this site. Quick Seed Purchases and Contributions for the Cause.
You can mail in an envelope or choose a secure online transaction below. Thank you!
We need your help. Plant Milkweed everywhere!
Send one self addressed, stamped envelope for Milkweed or mixed seeds appropriate for your area to:
Live Monarch – 2022 Seed Campaign
Blairsville, Georgia 30514
On that page, LiveMonarch.com politely requested that visitors not share their postal address online, perhaps in response to the October 2021 post. The foundation also asked for $1 for every 40 seeds:
– Please note our new address – Please update any postings! –
We welcome you share our website link, but NOT our PO Box Information Online
Cash or Check payable to “Live Monarch” 40+ seeds per dollar
Please request the type of seed you want. Instructions will be included.
Following the instructions, the group reiterated that small donations could help their cause:
Live Monarch will send 15+ Butterfly Garden seeds including Milkweed and growing instructions even if you can not afford a contribution just mail us a self addressed stamped envelope, one per household. A save the Monarch contribution is greatly appreciated to help offset the cost of the many seeds we give away, personally plant and plants we provide to schools and share with others.
One dollar goes a long way to help Monarchs, and we will send 40+ seeds per dollar as a thank you. If you need more seeds, send a larger contribution with your written request. (These same seed packs sell all over the web for $2 – $4 for only a few seeds). We send out two Northern Varieties called Syriaca and Speciosa which can survive the winters at the end of the growing season, and Asclepias Curassavica (southern milkweed / red and yellow flowers) to appropriate areas. It is a favorite egg-laying plant which grows quickly and will sprout many seed pods. From time to time we may have other types and do our best to send them back to the regions where they were gathered. Just request the type you want with the drop down menus below. Our staff will choose the appropriate type if you prefer. Please include a small note below as well if you have a special request. We read every one and do our best to meet your needs. Please give what you can so we can provide materials to as many as possible.
A July 23 2022 post from the Facebook page “Milk the Weed” appeared to address the circulating post concerning milkweed seeds. It provided additional information on efforts to sustain the population of monarch butterflies.
The Live Monarch Foundation did not appear to have any official and active social media channels to respond to the viral post, and its page contained undated updates interspersed with its content. One update addressed media outlets, emphasizing that the project was in need of small donations to continue their efforts:
Attention Press: We love the hundreds and sometimes thousands of letters we get from your readers and hope to be an ongoing part of your outreach to your audience. BUT please remember this is a contribution based seed program that relies on the many small purchases in self addressed stamped envelopes that come in to cover the cost to buy and collect seeds, print, pack, open, read, count, answer questions, stuff, seal and all too often include postage on all those requests. We encourage you to send your readers to our site and or this page and make sure they understand our offering is contribution based. We have funds to cover a small percentage of free seed requests but have unfortunately been inundated from time to time with thousands of free requests for materials that have bypassed our web site and are a significant drain on our small staff and limited resources. Trust us, your active audience will definitely contact you if their requests are not filled, please help us keep this program ongoing.
As of July 2022, a viral post to the Facebook group “Addicted to Gardening” encouraged people to send a self-addressed stamped envelope to the Live Monarch Foundation; in return, the sender would receive free milkweed seeds. The post was screencapped from an October 2021 post, and it circulated virally across platforms after news organizations reported that monarch butterflies were considered an endangered species as of 2022. According to LiveMonarch.com, the program relied on a trickle of extremely small $1 donations to keep the program going, with a free option for those who could not afford to contribute. Updates to the small organization’s site addressed the “free milkweed seeds” posts, reiterating that small donations were preferred where possible, via cash, check, or PayPal.