A Little Bit About the Monarch Butterfly & Milkweed
So I saw my first monarch butterfly of the summer the other day while running on a trail near my house. What’s the big deal about that, you ask? Well, for most of my life seeing a monarch butterfly wasn’t a big deal. Not at all. But now, over the last several years, it has become more a big deal. The sad reason? The monarch butterfly is vanishing. Not just from around here in Michigan. It’s vanishing everywhere. And that makes me sad, and it also kind of scares the hell out of me.
Scientists say we’ve now officially entered the planet’s SIXTH period of Mass Extinctions. This time around, the extinctions are man-made. For most of us, we don’t really notice anything different. We still have birds and bugs and too many deer. But if we look closer, we see signs… much fewer bees (and wow, is that a huge problem), and much fewer of those beautiful orange and black monarchs.
Wanna hear something scary? The numbers of monarchs overwintering in Mexico during 2013 and 2014 were a staggering 94% lower than their twenty-year historic highs. NINETY FOUR PERCENT fewer butterflies. No wonder I’ve only seen one this year!
BUT!!! We Can Do Our Part to Help Monarch Butterflies
But there’s a bit of good news. We can very easily, and very inexpensively, do something right now to help the dwindling monarch populations. The solution? MILKWEED. Yes, the milkweed plant is the only plant monarch caterpillars eat, and they’re where monarchs lay their eggs. Unfortunately for them, milkweed is mostly seen as a weed (it’s right there in the name for crying out loud), so it’s pulled and sprayed and eradicated most everywhere.
Millions of Americans are now taking part in a massive milkweed planting frenzy to give monarchs a fighting chance. By turning around the milkweed populations and creating a much larger food supply, the hope is to give monarchs a better chance at reproducing. And it seems to be working.
I wrote about the Monarch problem over at Green Home Landscape Source. There’s also a great resource, the Live Monarch Foundation, where you can learn about butterflies and how to save them. You can also send away for some free milkweed seeds (well, almost free. I paid $3.50 in shipping and they sent me 150 seeds with instructions on how to plant them. They’ll even send you the right kind of milkweed seeds for your area of the country. Cool!)
So get going! If you’ve got milkweed plants in your yard or landscaping, DON’T PULL THEM OUT !!! Leave them be!! If you don’t have any, send away for some seeds and get some growing! I’ve got my seeds in the ground and I’m hoping I see some milkweed soon… ‘Cause I don’t want to live in a world without monarch butterflies, and I definitely don’t want my kids and their someday kids to live in a world without these beautiful creatures around.