EVERYONE CAN HELP SAVE THE MONARCH BUTTERFLIES
The fragile monarch butterfly is easily recognized in Ohio. In the spring of the year the monarch butterflies migrate from Mexico to Canada. On their way north they consume food, mate and breed. Those that reach Canada are often the fourth generation of those leaving Mexico. They begin to their migration back to Mexico by the end of August.
The tall pine trees in my backyard have been a local habitat for many families of monarchs over the years. I have spent many cherished moments watching them traverse my property. Unfortunately, during the last two years, the number of monarchs in my yard have decreased to less than a dozen.
Many people are concerned for the monarch since they have greatly decreased in number. Organizations completing research into the problem have suggested the decrease is partially due to pesticides, pollen from genetically engineered plants, and their disappearing habitat. What used to be roadside sanctuaries have disappeared due to landowners or the state of Ohio spraying for weeds along the roadsides. Cultivation of larger plots of land has removed past homes of many butterflies using the milkweed growing along the fence lines. Fences have been removed to make the land easier to cultivate.
The primary plant needed for monarch butterflies is milkweed. A monarch will place one larva on a milkweed plant. That plant will nourish the caterpillar until it becomes a butterfly. With the proliferation of urban sprawl and major farms not allowing for natural growth, the milkweed is becoming scarce. Without the milkweed, monarch butterflies cannot increase in number and may soon become extinct.
In the Zanesville, Ohio area milkweed used to grow in abundance along county roads and in many fields now under cultivation. Older citizens may remember blowing the silky parachute-like seeds out of the mature pods and using the pods for ornamental decorations. Birds use the silk for lining their nests. I wonder how long it has been since anyone has seen a growing milkweed pod?
To remedy the situation of disappearing monarch butterflies, it is recommended that private and public organizations with nature preserves, or areas exclusive to preserving wildlife, plan to annually cultivate milkweed on their properties from seeds or cuttings. Individuals with open land for fences lined with plants are also requested to invest in planting milkweed. Milkweed grows best in sunny areas.
Milkweed seeds are available through numerous seed retailers, many available on line through the Internet. I wish they were available from local landscape gardens. It would be wonderful to have many milkweed plants available for next year’s spring arrivals. Colorful butterfly attracting bushes in yards would also encourage their population increase.
Many varieties of milkweed are often sold in seed packets of 20-30. Most are hardy for this region. They will reseed and return each year without further planting. The plants have fibrous roots and will not spread throughout a flower garden. They are not considered an invasive species. Gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts can easily create their own little corner of butterfly heaven.
To create a perfect habitat, the abundance of milkweed plants and other flowers for butterflies allows for growth and nourishment. To learn more about monarchs and their habitat, interested persons can obtain information from:
BUTTERFLY SOCIETY OF VIRGINIA: http://butterflysocietyofva.org/growing_milkweed.htm
JOURNEY NORTH: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/monarch/News.html
LIVE MONARCH: http://www.livemonarch.com/growinginstructions.htm
MONARCH LAB: http://www.monarchlab.org/Lab/Rearing/GrowingMilkweed.aspx
MONARCH WATCH: www.monarchwatch.org
MONARCH WATCH FACEBOOK PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/monarchwatch