|Monarch on the Milkweed|
(I used Sennelier oil pastels to create this painting inspired by the first monarch to visit our volunteer common milkweed patch. I hope she comes back and lays eggs so I can do a painting of a monarch caterpillar!)
Monarchs need our help...
Monarchs lay their eggs exclusively on milkweed, and the caterpillars that hatch out of the eggs never leave those plants. They only eat milkweed, so without a healthy supply of their host plant, monarchs will die out. Forever. Like...extinction forever. The problem is milkweed is being eradicated in the monarch's summer breeding grounds. In the midwest, where most of the monarchs are born, genetically engineered crops resistant to Roundup (an herbicide with the active ingredient glyphosate) are being planted. Previously, milkweed grew in the channels between the rows of crops, but now, GMOs allow for mass applications of the herbicide that leave the crops unaltered but the milkweed dead.
If you have a patch of grass, turn it into a small urban or suburban prairie. I'm getting ready to do that in my backyard. This autumn I'm going to sow the seeds of native perennials, including milkweed, wildflowers, and grasses to form a small backyard prairie. I'll put a sign up that says Wildflower Garden...or Butterfly Garden...or Pollinator Garden...or maybe even Monarch Rescue Station!
|The sun was sinking fast when this female Monarch butterfly decided to take nectar from one of the common milkweed flowers in our backyard. Even with a flash it was too dark for a good photo, and the monarch is blurred, but you get the picture!|
|Common milkweed smells wonderful with a sweet fragrance that hangs heavy in the air.|
|I hope she comes back again.|
The complete picture...
It's not just milkweed eradication that is harming the monarchs, though. According to "Conservation Status and Ecology of the Monarch Butterfly in the United States (March 2015)," by Sarina Jepsen, Dale Schweitzer, Bruce Young, Nicol Sears, Margaret Ormes, and Scott Hoffman Black, there are three main factors causing their rapid decline: loss of milkweed breeding habitat due to "Roundup Ready" crops and herbicide, logging at overwintering sites, and climate change and extreme weather. Other causes are disease, predators, parasites, and insecticides. If you want to learn more, click here to download their interesting 30-page pdf document where in addition to the monarch's conservation status, you can also learn about the butterfly's life cycle and diet, breeding grounds, migration routes, and overwintering locations.
For more information:
Click here for the Xerces Society press release, "Monarch Butterflies in North American Found to be Vulnerable to Extinction," March 10, 2015.
Click here for the Xerces Society press release, "Monarch Numbers up Slightly, but Butterfly Still at Risk of Extinction," January 27, 2015.
Click here and here for nice representations of the monarch's life cycle including photos of its five instars.
Native Plant Nursery in our area...and ecosourcing...
If you live in the Cincinnati area, and you're looking for a native plant nursery, try Keystone Flora. They grow their plants from seeds and cuttings generated from their own nursery. All the original sources were within 100 to 150 miles of Cincinnati. These plants originated from our region, so they are well suited to grow here without fertilizers or special water requirements. "Ecosourcing" is using native plants from local seed for local use. It's important because it preserves the genetic diversity and genotypes of local plants. Although plants may be the same species, there are often genetic differences between the same plants from different regions. To learn more about why native genotypes are important, click here for the article, "Problems Associated with the Introduction of Non-Native Genotypes on NRS Reserves."
Click here for a list of some of the native flowers Keystone Flora sells.