Tuesday, July 30, 2013

OY VEY! All this milkweed and NO MONARCHS!

For the past 16 years I have been allowing Common Milkweed to naturalize on my land for the Monarchs butterflies. This is just one of several big patches that I maintain.  (I am now in the process of certifying my land as a Monarch Way Station through Monarch Watch.)

Normally I could walk out there and within minutes find the whole life cycle of the Monarch butterflies.  This year: zero-zilch-nada.  I found only THREE EGGS, which I brought in to raise for my grandson to watch.  Only one hatched.  It is now a pupa.  The question is, when it emerges as a butterfly, will it be able to find a mate?

As for adult butterflies, I've only seen one Monarch all summer.  Other species are scarce, too.   Normally this field would be teeming with all kinds of butterflies, as well as bees and other insects.  This year there are very few.   According to a March 18, 2013 article on the National Geographic News site, this year has hit an all-time low for Monarch populations.

The most common butterflies on my land this summer seems to be the skippers and  fritillaries, but even those are few and far between.   I saw on the news that we have lost a whole generation of Monarchs down around Texas, due to bad weather.  Parts of the country were so cold this spring that there was no milkweed for the Monarchs to breed on when they arrived.  Here we had rain every day for a month, followed by an unseasonal heat wave.  Now it is chilly again, breaking record lows all over the state.   Yes indeed, global weirding is a reality!

We have also lost a lot of Monarchs over the years due to loss of habitat.  Monarchs migrate north in stages --as many as four generations per summer -- and if one of those generations can't find milkweed to breed on, well, you end up with no butterflies going further north.  Like this year (sigh).  As I always do in all my Monarch reports, I strongly encourage everyone to save a space in their landscaping for some milkweeds to feed the Monarchs.  If you don't want Common Milkweed (which spreads by underground runners that can be invasive in small spaces), then try one of the many other kinds.  The so-called Butterfly Flower (formerly "Butterfly Weed") comes in a variety of colors that will fit any garden.  And it stays put in a pretty clump.

The Torah (Leviticus 19.27) says:

"When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.   Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God."

Of course, this originally referred to the human poor gleaning the fields for leftover crops.  However, I would like to suggest that we extend this to include to other species on our planet.  We need those "wild corners" for species like Monarch butterflies to survive.  Maybe this is also something that God had in mind when he told us to leave the corners of our fields.  Nowadays, very few people actually go out and glean fields, but a lot of wildlife species benefit from leaving space for them to live.  We do not need to squeeze out every bit of profit from every inch of land.  Leaving the corners for God's creatures benefits us all.  Keep this in mind when you plan your garden.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this article very much. We live in the city of Cleveland, OH, and only have our yard to play with. But I am working at naturalizing it, including places for butterflies to nest and feed (including plants the seeds of which were purchased from you!). We bought this place about a year and a half ago and thus far we have attracted over a dozen bird species, racoons, deer, squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, and even a oppossum! You inspire me to "keep it up!" We hope to create a nature oasis here in the city. BTW, I am presently in grad school working to become a licensed mental health counselor. I also plan to seek certification as a "nature therapist." I enjoyed your blog. Thanks for stopping by mine. :-)


Yonassan Gershom said...

Welcome to my blog, Cecelia! Sounds like you are doing a great job making a haven for wildlife. You don't need acres and acres, just the right mini-habitat:) You should add some hummingbird feeders, if you haven't already -- they do migrate through Ohio and are really fun to watch:) And if they like your place, they will return year after year.

Anonymous said...

Steel V Houghton (1788) spelt the end of the right of gleaning in our modern society.