Monarch Butterfly Crisis

docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)November 28, 2013

I don't know how much any of the posters here know about the state of the Monarch Butterfly, but their population has plummeted in the past three years. Last winter the population in the overwintering forest in Mexico was 1/3 of what it had been the year before, by far the lowest since anyone has been keeping track. They estimate that 60 million butterflies spent the winter that year. So far this winter, only 3 million have returned. This could very well be the end of the miraculous migration of these beautiful creatures.

There is still a chance we can work to bring them back, if gardeners all across the United States make an effort to include native, pollen-producing plants, and especially many milkweed plants, which are the only plant that Monarchs will lay eggs on, and the only plant that the caterpillars can eat. We also need to try to stop use of any pesticides that could be poisonous to any insects.

It's not just the Monarchs that are in trouble. All types of native bees are also declining at frightening rates. 80% of all the plants that grow in our environment depend on bees for pollination. If we lose them, we will lose our world as we know it, and we will not survive. We need to rethink our approach to conserving our fragile environment, and quickly.

Please consider making some adjustments in your gardens that might help the situation. Expand your gardens and shrink your lawns. Consider planting prairie plants where you have sun, which won't require as much watering or mowing. Plant native trees such as oaks, willows, beech, etc. and plant native flowering shrubs that provide nectar for insects and berries for birds and other small creatures. We just need to tip the balance back in the direction of nature. Visit the butterfly forum for more info, or the native plant forums, woodland and prairie forums. We're also adopting newbies to milkweed growing on a thread that can be found on the seed trading forum or linked from the Milkweed forum. I'm counting on each of you to do what you can and speak to others you know and encourage them to do the same.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving,


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bogturtle(SE NJ 7a)

Has really upset a friend who counted them, as they funneled down to the southernmost point of this State before crossing the bay for the South. Few in number and depressing. My plan is to start many Asclepias tuberosa seedlings to give to gardeners. They germination and growth was easy, last time I tried. Perhaps there could be many people who would grow milkweeds on their properties, but the real solution may lie in Mexico. Both the Pileated Woodpecker and Brant pivoted, when faced with real habitat changes, so perhaps the Monarch can.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2013 at 9:21PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I am hopeful that we can turn things around. The two most important issues are the overwintering site in Mexico, and the nearly universal use of Roundup Ready crops throughout the United States Midwest. 95% of the milkweeds used by Monarchs have been growing alongside agricultural crops. The percentage of fields that are planted in genetically modified organisms that are resistant to Roundup has grown from 25% to over 85% in the past 5-7 years. And as corn has risen in price, farmers have expanded their fields right to the edge of the roads, so there are not even field edges for Monarchs and other insects to cling to. That's why we all need to fill our yards with nectar-producing shrubs and flowers to give them new places to survive.


    Bookmark   November 29, 2013 at 3:57PM
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Very distressing indeed. I attended a workshop on monarchs last month at my local library. They talked about all the very things you mention docmom. When the audience was asked if they had seen any monarchs this summer, only a handful raised their hands. And those who had had only seen one or two. I've let my milkweed go to seed in hopes that it will help.


    Bookmark   December 2, 2013 at 12:44PM
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There are 2 easy ways to help.

1. Plant milkweed in your gardens for them to have something to lay their eggs on -- it's the ONLY thing the caterpillars will eat. Need pods or seeds? sells seed. I myself have some pods if anyone is interested.
2. Plant nectar plants -- Joe Pye weed, coneflowers, phlox, cosmos, zinnas, buddleia, rudbeckia and so on.

I have had a Monarch flower plot for several years. This last summer I saw only a few Monarchs and I am afraid. This next summer I will redouble my efforts.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2013 at 6:49PM
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we had very little butterfly sightings in my area in Ontario Canada as well. Its not just monarchs but other butterflies as well. Interestingly, I had a lot of bees. Apart from the obvious, the climate seems to be the real reason behind the phenomenon. We had severe storms, (hurricanes and tornadoes) and all these affect migration routes. So while we can seed plants (nurseries for these butterfiles) - let's hope for less extreme weather this year.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 11:29AM
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