Butterflyweed and Some Monarch Numbers
The Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is blooming. We have several species of Milkweed in the garden, but A. tuberosa is the first of these to bloom.
It’s also my favorite. I am in love with the clusters of unusual, bright orange flowers. We now have three sizable clumps of Butterflyweed: one in the Driveway Border, one in the Lamppost Bed, and one in the Veg. and Herb Bed.
As you probably know, Monarchs will lay their eggs only on Milkweeds and no other genus of plants. So, no Milkweed means no Monarchs. And Milkweeds are popular nectar plants for many pollinators.
Fortunately, many Milkweeds are fine plants for the garden, Butterflyweed not least among them.
It’s usually an easy plant if you have well-drained soil and full sun.
Seeing the Butterflyweed in bloom reminded me that I had not seen the most recent population estimate for the number of Monarchs overwintering in Mexico, where the Monarch migration begins and ends. So I looked it up.
The overwintering Monarch population is measured in the total area occupied by the butterly’s colonies. For the winter of 2016-2017, there were 2.91 hectares (a little over 7 acres) covered with Monarchs.
That’s a 27% decline from the winter of 2015-2016, but still a substantial improvement over the three winters from 2012 to 2015, when Monarch populations reached an all-time low.
There’s another way of looking at these numbers. Kylee Baumle, garden blogger and author of The Monarch: Saving Our Most-Loved Butterfly, notes that there was a devastating snow storm in Mexico that occurred just as the 2016 spring migration was starting. This killed a huge number of Monarchs – as many as 75%, according to some estimates.
So it seems the most recent overwintering figures represent a significant recovery from the effects of the 2016 storm. Kylee considers the report to be one for the win column.
Even so, Monarch numbers remain at historic lows. They are still threatened by habitat destruction, pesticides, and climate change. Conservation efforts could be having a positive impact, but the Monarch migration is still very much endangered.