I don’t want to put a damper on anybody’s holiday. The New York Times didn’t ask me if now would be the best time to run another article on efforts to halt the rapid decline of Monarch Butterflies. But they did run it today, and people should read it.
Actually, the issue was presented in the context of efforts to get more milkweed planted – in gardens and in open spaces of all kinds – in order to prevent Monarch extinction.
However they present it, though, the situation is pretty dire. For instance, there is a monarch count conducted every year by the University of Northern Iowa on 100 acres of prairie. In 2010, 176 monarchs were found. In 2013 it was down to 11.
The problem is that the high demand for corn is bringing lots of marginal land into production, land that used to be full of milkweed. As I’m sure you know, monarch caterpillars eat only milkweed – so no milkweed, no monarchs. The growing market for corn is caused in part by ethanol subsidies, subsidies brought to us by agribusiness and their friends in Congress.
Also, there isn’t nearly as much milkweed growing wild among the crops, thanks to the use of herbicide-resistant corn and soybeans.
So growing milkweed in gardens, roadsides, utility rights of way and other open spaces is critical. This is especially true in the Midwest and Central Plains. Conservationists are doing as much as they can.
In my garden, Milkweed is plentiful. There’s Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) for dry, sunny areas.
There’s Swamp Milkweed (A. incarnata) for sunny, moist areas.
And Purple Milkweed (A. purpurescens) that tolerates part shade.
You can also grow Common Milkweed (A. syriaca), though it tends to be very aggressive. Sullivant’s Milkweed (A. sullivantii) is similar to the Common Milkweed, but reportedly better behaved.
This year I saw hardly any monarchs, and I wondered if the monarch’s decline had gone past the tipping point. However, I’m not willing to throw in the towel. Plus, the Milkweeds I grow are very garden-worthy plants.
Are you growing Milkweeds in your garden? Do you have plans to plant any?