by Angela van Breemen
On the news each year, we hear about the dwindling numbers of pollinators. I was dismayed to recently read that the overwintering Monarch butterflies in Mexico had decreased by 53%. In an article released on March 13th, 2020, the Center for Biological Diversity released shocking numbers.
“Scientists were expecting the count to be down slightly, but this level of decrease is heartbreaking,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Monarchs unite us, and more protections are clearly needed for these migratory wonders and their habitat.”
It is believed that the extinction threshold for the migratory butterflies’ survival in North America is 15 acres. The latest count done by World Wildlife Fund Mexico found overwintering monarchs occupied only 7 acres.
Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed and since this plant has been destroyed by herbicides, their food source is quickly being eliminated. George Kimbrell, legal director for the Center for Food Safety was quoted as saying, “Both the law and science require that we must protect monarchs under the Endangered Species Act before it’s too late. Monsanto’s profits cannot come before the monarch’s future.”
To read the full report, please visit https://biologicaldiversity.org/w/news/press-releases/eastern-monarch-butterfly-population-plunges-more-half-2020-03-13/
Last year, I was very inspired by a fellow Procyon Wildlife volunteer who was protecting delicate caterpillars, not just monarchs, from natural predators so that they would have an increased chance of going from egg to larvae (caterpillar) and then magically transform to a butterfly.
I was very excited when I saw monarch caterpillars munching away on milkweed that I had growing in my own flower gardens. I covered the plants with a light mesh to protect these delicate creatures from predators since in the wild, only about one to two monarch butterfly eggs live to become adult butterflies.
Eastern monarch butterflies are the only butterflies that make a lengthy, two-way migration every year, travelling thousands of kilometres from North America to spend winter in the mountains of Mexico before returning north in the spring.
In the fall last year, I planted milkweed seeds everywhere I could and I am very excited to report that quite a few plants are growing betwixt my herbs, echinacea and other flowering plants and shrubs.
I am now holding my breath and full of hope that some of those monarchs will return to our country property, and to those of my wildlife rehab friends. Sadly, though I have not yet seen any.
Still, I am hopeful, and what a joy it will be to see them come to drink the nectar from these flowers and stay to lay eggs on the milkweed plants.
One more thought, before I sign off. Please think twice about spraying your trees to rid yourself of those awful gypsy moth caterpillars… those insecticides could do so much harm to other pollinators, insects, the birds that eat those insects and to other wildlife.
In this life, our goal should be to do no harm.
HELP is in ALL OUR hands!