How to Save the Monarch Butterfly from Sure Extinction

King of the Butterflies…the Monarch

monarch-butterfly

The reason I’m writing this blog is to bring awareness to the plight of the monarch, a very serious situation and ask for help to prevent the extinction of this harmless and beautiful little creature. Sadly, their numbers have decreased by 90% over the past 20 years.

Let’s start at the very beginning

monarch-butterfly-cocoon-six-minutes-before-emergingWith the start of spring…so begins the start of life for the monarch.

The monarch is a milkweed butterfly. What does this mean? In March and April eggs are laid on milkweed plants. About 4 days later, the eggs hatch into baby caterpillars which feed on the milkweed, its primary food source, to survive and thrive.  About 2 weeks later the caterpillars are fully grown and find stems or leaves to attach themselves to using silk from the milkweed. This process, metamorphosis, goes on for about 10 days until the monarch butterfly emerges from the cocoon and flies away.

This picture shows the monarch butterfly in his cocoon just 6 minutes before emerging. Look closely…you can make out his little wings.

monarch-butterfly-thirty-minutes-after-emerging-from-cocoonThis next picture shows the monarch 30 minutes after emerging and already showing off his beautiful orange and black wings resembling fragile stained glass.

The first generation of monarchs live only 2-6 weeks feeding off flowers until it’s time to lay their eggs in milkweed to start the next generation that will be born in May or June.

Did you know…

The monarch butterfly travels up to 2,500 miles in it’s generational trip which starts in Mexico. Some travel as far north as central and eastern Canada, stopping along the way to lay eggs.  Each generation completes its “leg” of the trip in 2-6 weeks where they  stop to lay eggs for the next generation.  The 4th generation of monarchs lives up to 8 months spending the last 2 months of their short lives flying south to southern California and even Mexico…traveling as much as 80 miles a day.

It’s a migration marathon and their food of choice…milkweed.

monarch-butterfly-danaus-plexippus-migration

 

 

For those that make it to Mexico, there is the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve where the trees protect these fragile creatures from the elements as they huddle together to stay warm.  They’ll stay here in the trees  until the cycle starts all over again.

So, why the decline?

As mentioned earlier, the monarch population has declined 90% over the past 20 years. This is equivalent to every person in the US dying with the exception of people living in Ohio and Florida. Puts it in a whole different perspective, doesn’t it?

As farmers in the mid west cultivate more land for agriculture, the milkweed plants are destroyed in the process. A lack of milkweed, which is critical to the monarch’s survival, is why their numbers are disappearing. The milkweed provides nectar on their travels and it’s the only plant they can lay their eggs on.

Discovered and developed by Monsanto, glyphosate was brought to the market under the trade name “Roundup” in 1974. Glyphosate, is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide used to kill weeds and grasses that compete with crops.  The main ingredient in Roundup is glyphosate. By 2007, glyphosate was the most used herbicide in US agriculture and the second most used herbicide by government, commercial and home use. Sadly, I must admit, I have a spray bottle of Roundup in my barn and have used it to kill weeds in my crushed stone and slate walkways for years.

Glyphosate is also used to clear milkweed plants along roads, highways and railroad beds. And it’s used by cities and towns on sidewalks to eliminate grasses and weeds that grow in the cracks. By 2010, it had been approved for use in 130 countries.

Did you know…

Since 2007, milkweed has been commercially harvested as a hypoallergenic filling for pillows. Milkweed’s fibers are used to clean up oil spills and used to manufacture thermal and acoustic insulation.

Time for legislation and action

  • As of May, 2014, legislature of The Netherlands passed legislation banning glyphosate for home use.
  • In 2015, El Salvador approved legislation to ban glyphosate altogether.
  • Also in 2015, the President of Sri Lanka banned the import and use of glyphosate effective immediately.
  • And in 2015, Bermuda blocked importation.
  • In June of 2015, the French Ecology Minister asked nurseries and garden centers to halt over the counter sales of glyphosate, as the main ingredient of an herbicide.

In come the lawyers…

In 2015, the natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit against the EPA.  Their claim being the EPA ignored warnings about the dangers of the chemical and its affect on the monarch butterfly.

Hopefully, some good news for the tiny travelers

After years of decline, the monarch numbers seem to be on the rebound thanks to changes in legislature and bans on glyphosate.  Reports from the World Wildlife Fund state that the numbers of monarch butterflies that are wintering in Mexico are greater than last year. Let’s hope this growth continues.

What can you and I do to help?

Milkweed, or Asclepias, is an essential food source for butterflies and bees. So, let’s pay it forward for these little pollinators…plant milkweed in your garden to help them in their journey through North America and Canada. There are about 38 different species of milkweed. Plant other nectar plants such as Bee Balm, Butterfly Bush, violets, Veronica Blue Mountains, Salvia Sensation Rose and of course, Lily plants.  Butterflies, as well as bees and hummingbirds, are attracted to bright colors like red, pink, yellow, orange and purple.

…and what about farmers?

I try to purchase produce at my local farmers’ markets and organic farm stands…as much as I can. While I realize commercial farmers are a whole different ball game, I just wonder…could milkweed be planted around the perimeter of commercial gardens? Wouldn’t that be a start?

Keep in mind...where glyphosate has accumulated in the soil over time, we are eating it too, and it’s too early to see what the long term affects are to humans, other mammals, fowl and aquatic life.  Think about that.  It makes me want to just scream…What the H— are we doing?? It seems that all too often, profit motive wins over common sense.

Check this out… www.LiveMonarch.com where you can purchase Butterfly Garden seeds.  For every $1.00 you commit to spend, this organization will send you 50+ seeds appropriate for your area and growing season. OR…you can request specific plants.  When you go on the site, hover over “Help Save the Monarchs” and then click on “Plant a Seed Program”.

In closing…

Support the plight of the monarch butterfly and plant milkweed seeds and other butterfly plants all over your yard.  You’ll not only beautify your living space but you’ll be helping these beautiful little pollinators while on their travels.  Give butterfly garden seeds as gifts…the ultimate gift that keeps on giving.  Share and forward this blog to friends, neighbors, people in your book club, that cute guy down the street and don’t forget your co-workers.

Just like the Bayer product mentioned in my blog “A Honey of a Retraction”, other countries are stepping forward and legislating bans…but I ask…where is the United States of America? WAKE UP GUYS… GET YOUR HEADS OUT OF THE SAND AND DO SOMETHING BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!

Together…we can make something amazing happen.

monarch-butterfly-sucking-nectar

 

 

Eat well, my little friend…there will be lots more nectar flowers to enjoy on your next journey north…stay safe.

⇒ Click here to read my blog A Honey of a Retraction where I discuss the plight of the honey bee. Please read this as it will prove a definite correlation between the two and will make you stop dead in your tracks…and think.

Skål

19 comments to How to Save the Monarch Butterfly from Sure Extinction

  • Michael

    Thank you for all the information. I remember seeing butterflies every where you go on in the spring and summer. Now my kids ask to see them and I look around and can not find them. As a result I was not surprised at all by that number of 90% just very saddened by it. We see that all the time, people or companies are trying to stop one thing to control whatever it is that they are selling or growing and end up effecting so much in the environment. You really need to watch what you do artificially to effect nature because everything has its process and role. Every good post, I am going to plant milkweed for sure, and will let you know if I see any visitors.

    • Karen

      Michael…I’m glad you enjoyed this blog and that you’re going to plant milkweed. I also have bee balm in my gardens, which they love, as well as yellow and orange day lilies. Last week I saw a baby Hummingbird…never have seen a baby one before.

      I invite you to read my blog “A Honey of a Retraction” as I discuss the plight of the honey bee…as serious a problem as the Monarch butterfly. Would love to know your thoughts.

  • Amber

    This makes me so sad, but also mad! You are right, profit trumps common sense for a lot of things these days. Companies like this are evil and we need to support those companies trying to make our world BETTER.
    As a child I used to see monarchs here in Canada every year. I’d see all kind of butterflies. There are almost none now unless we go to the zoo to their butterfly exhibit.
    Do you have any info where milkweed grows? You mentioned in your post the first eggs are laid in March/April. Here in Calgary we are still usually pretty cold at that time without much growing.

    • Karen

      Hello, Amber…thank you for reading this important blog and commenting on it.

      Milkweed can be found growing naturally along highways and roadsides, medians, railroad tracks, parks and walking/biking paths. There are over 30 varieties so you may have to look at pictures before seeking the plants out so you know what you’re looking for.

      Check out the link http://www.livemonarch.com where you can purchase milkweed plant seeds or even get some for free. You should be able to purchase milkweed plants at your local garden center to get a head start for this season. Then, this fall when the milkweed pods are ready to burst, collect the seeds from the pods and store in an air tight container until you’re ready to plant them in early spring, after the last frost.

      I suggest using silica gel in the containers to prevent the seeds from rotting over the winter due to any moisture. Just keep them in a cool, dry place like your garage or the basement.

      BUT…where you live in Canada as in the northern US, you can simply sow your collected seeds directly into a mulched garden bed in the fall and the seeds will germinate next spring.

      It’s that simple and the butterflies will thank you.

  • Anthony little

    incredible post I didn’t even know they were extinction. I have seen some buds growing on my trees but I’m not sure if it the monarch butterfly but now I’m curious to see. Anyhow thank for the awareness of this beautiful creature…

  • Liz Lechko

    Wow Karen,
    I did not know about this. I have milkweed that sprouts up behind the house in with the hostas. I won’t pull them out now. I will let them grow. I also grow purple cone flowers and bee balm. Good for the butterflies, hummingbirds and bees.

    • Karen

      I have a ton of bee balm in my gardens and the hummingbirds love my day lilies. I recently learned that bees love dandelion blossoms so if you have some in your lawn…don’t run out and pull them out of the ground. Let the bees enjoy them.
      In my blog I have a link to http://www.livemonarch.com where you can purchase milkweed plant seeds and even get some for free. The seed packets are great little gifts for neighbors and friends…the gift that keeps on giving.
      Thank you for visiting and thank you for helping the monarch butterfly.

  • Marilyn Williams

    Hi Karen, Wow, thanks for bringing this to our attention! As I was reading I was thinking “I bet milkweed is good for something!” A little research quickly revealed that milkweed is great for warts and even for heart disease! This is not me saying this, it’s just a little something I found online.

    My thinking, as I was reading your post, was that any “weed” that is in abundance around your home is generally good for something. In this case, apparently it can be eaten as a vegetable, as well as having medicinal purposes. Isn’t that fascinating?

    If people looked to possibly using their “weeds”, the little butterfly was automatically be taken care of.

    When are we all going to realise there’s a balance in this world, and everything is useful for something?

    thanks again, I loved your post. 🙂
    Marilyn

    • Karen

      Thank you, Marilyn, and I totally agree with you. Think of the most common of weeds..the dandelion. People eat the greens, butterflies and bees love the blossoms.

  • Debra

    I had no idea this was happening and that these butterflies were in danger. This hits home for me for a very personal reason. My mother loved butterflies. She collected butterfly stuff – you know, like butterfly pictures, figurines, etc. When she passed away in 2005 I wrote a book about her and I named it “Butterflies.” And you know how they say those in spirit will sometimes come around us? Whenever I’m thinking about my mother intently, a MONARCH butterfly inevitable shows up – they were her favorite! So thank you so much for bringing awareness about this!

    • Karen

      Debra…thank you for reading this important blog and I appreciate your feedback and touching comments. I believe your mother is letting you know she is with you. They say “Look for the signs” and the monarch butterfly obviously is her sign for you. I hope you will click on the link mentioned in the blog to purchase milkweed seeds for your garden. I love giving these seed packets as gifts to my friends and family all over the country. It’s a tiny gift with a huge reward.

  • Paula

    Hi Karen, I’m so glad I cam across your page. Thank you so much for teaching us about this very important little creature. I was very unaware about most of the situation with the monarch butterflies and I simply love all types of butterflies – they seem so magical- and what they achieve in their short little lives is actually magical.
    Can the milkweed plant be grown in Ireland and would it be beneficial to the monarch butterflies?

    • Karen

      Hello, Paula…thank you for reading and commenting on this important blog. Yes, butterflies are indeed magical especially when we realize how short their little lives are. In Ireland, they live up to 6 weeks. Monarchs can be sighted in the south and southwest coastal districts of Ireland during September and October, albeit it rare as they cannot survive the Irish winters. Milkweed plants can be grown in Ireland and the butterflies need milkweed to feed on. There is no natural breeding habitat for them in Ireland so if you live in the south or southwest coastal district, I hope you will plant milkweed for them to survive and thrive.

  • Jeanette

    Hi! Wow I had no idea that the monarch butterfly numbers had decreased so much. Thank you so much for posting this information. Now that I know I will do my part to try to help them increase their numbers. Is there anything we can do to maybe persuade legislation to consider banning glyphosate?

    • Karen

      Hello, Jeanette…thank you for reading and commenting on this important blog. The good news is the increasing number of countries banning Monsanto’s “Roundup” herbicide; the major ingredient of which is glyphosate. The World Health Organization has linked glyphosate to cancer and I think we will see a ban on this chemical in the near future.

      I included a link in the blog where we can purchase milkweed plants and seeds for a small contribution. These would make great gifts. Please pass along the blog and link.

      Thank you,

      karen

  • Ian

    Hi Karen, I didn’t realise that the amazing Monarch butterfly is in such a plight. A friend of mine in California goes out of his way to encourage them to breed on his plants, through to the emegence of the butterfly. I hope that stopping the use of the various chemicals that you refer to will help it along and help to regenerate its former numbers in the wild.

    • Karen

      Ian…thank you for reading and commenting. I applaud your friend in CA and we all should follow suit. In my blog I included a link where we can purchase milkweed plants and seeds for a very small contribution. Personally, I have purchased several to give as gifts…it’s the gift that will keep on giving.

      I’m hoping you will forward this blog onto your many friends and encourage them to do the same. Maybe we can make something amazing happen and change the plight of these innocent little creatures.

      Karen

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