Enjoy this amazing video clip from "Wings of Life" narrated by Meryl Streep.
I remember smaller "flocks" of monarchs like this as a boy in the oak timber around my parents home. I have not seen anything close in a long time...
This week I had the pleasure of visiting with "Chip" Taylor, Director of Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas. Dr. Taylor has been at the forefront of education and outreach, and more recently, a champion of conservation. A honeybee expert and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, Dr. Taylor founded Monarch Watch for research and to teach people about Monarch butterflies thinking if we know them we will save them.
"In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught." Baba Dioum, Sengalese poet and naturalist
The current state of affairs has moved Monarch Watch to a more active conservation role.
Although Monarchs can occasionally experience periodic population crashes of up to 80%, due to poor breeding conditions or harsh weather in overwintering areas, they can rebound with favorable conditions the following year or two. However, populations have been in overall decline the 20 years for a variety of reasons.
- Herbicide tolerant plants have led to cleaner fields and surrounding areas. Much of the monarchs host plant, milkweed which is highly sensitive to glyphosate, was eliminated.
- With high commodity prices, due in part to the ethanol mandate, 24 Million acres of grass, range and shrub lands (habitat) were converted to crop production from 2008-2012.
- Over 2 million acres of land are lost annually to urban/suburban sprawl - as much as 500,000 acres in the monarch summer breeding areas.
- Roadside Management practices using herbicides and frequent mowing encourages the formation of grasslands to the detriment of many species of wildlife food and shelter.
What can we do? We live in Iowa, the Corn Belt. Well, that's the good news! We are right in the heart of the Monarchs Summer breeding grounds.
Planting milkweed in our landscapes can have a direct effect helping Monarchs. Monarch butteflies lay their eggs on the leaves of milkweeds. Planting nectar plants, especially wild flowers, will give monarchs the food they need to prepare for their Fall migration. Nectar plants will help all our pollinators; butterflies, hummingbirds, even bats and bees. Bees, both native and honeybees, are also experiencing stress.
City and suburban residents are starting, but even more is needed to compensate for the loss of habitat. Rural areas are in real need of regenerative milkweed/pollinator habitat. These plantings provide places for Monarchs to leapfrog across wide areas. The new Farm Bill, through the USDA, provides incentives for the establishment of pollinator habitat. Installation costs can be reimbursed up to 50% for CRP, or 75% for EQIP acres. See the following fact sheet for more information:
Abundant Design is proud to be working with Monarch Watch and can provide a wildflower & milkweed installation that qualifies for designation as an International Monarch Waystation. We can even register it for you and install a weatherproof sign that highlights your conservation efforts and educates your neighbors. Contact us for an estimate and watch for more details in the products and services page.
Be watching for more on this topic, and another special announcement.
If you are a Do-It-Yourselfer I encourage you to go to MonarchWatch.org, PlantGrowFly.org or follow the links for resources to install your own Monarch habitat!
Now is the time, answer this call to action!