SOS for Monarch Butterflies
An article in today’s New York Times contained alarming news about the decline of Monarch butterflies.
This year the butterflies are occupying less than three acres of pine forest in their Mexican winter habitat. That’s down dramatically from the seven acres occupied in 2o11 and the 50 acres that have been full of Monarchs in some past years. Some scientists believe that further decline could bring Monarch populations below the point of no return. My own unscientific observation is that there are definitely fewer Monarchs than there were a few years ago.
The culprit is the decline of wild milkweed (Asclepias spp.) in the American Midwest. High prices have caused farmers to maximize acreage under cultivation, plowing up strips of land that had once been full of grasses and wildflowers. Also, the prevalence of herbicide-resistant corn means that there are far fewer milkweed plants growing as weeds among the corn rows.
Milkweeds are the only host plant for Monarch butterfly caterpillars. No milkweed means no food for new generations of Monarchs as they migrate from south to north and back.
We can help the Monarch butterflies by planting more milkweeds in our gardens. There are several garden-worthy species available. A post about the milkweeds I like to grow is here.
Do you have milkweed in your garden? Or do you have plans to add some during the coming year?