When it comes to monarch butterflies, there’s good news and bad news.
Let’s go with the bad news first. The rivers of monarch butterflies that once flowed over Oklahoma’s towns, fields and pastures each September have dwindled to a trickle.
Where once monarchs covered thistles and goldenrod on our farm, and endless clouds blew across my country road, last fall I could count the number of monarchs I saw on one hand.
It’s not just on my farm. The number of monarchs reaching their winter home in Mexico has gone from 550 million in 2004 to 33.5 million in 2013.
Why? Loss of habitat to development, severe weather, and deforestation in Mexico are factors. But recently scientists have concluded that is the loss of milkweed that is the leading cause of the monarch decline.
The humble milkweed plant it seems is the key to the survival of the monarch butterfly. Milkweed is the only plant on which monarch butterflies will lay their eggs, and it is the primary food source for monarch caterpillars.
In recent years, the increased large-scale use of herbicide-tolerant crops has led to significant declines in the number of milkweeds, down 21% since 1995. Herbicides wipe out milkweeds in fields and on field margins.
The equation is simple: no milkweed, no monarchs.
The opposite is also true: more milkweed, more monarchs.
The solution is equally clear cut: preserve native milkweeds where they occur in our fields and pastures, meadows and roadsides. And plant milkweeds in our gardens, yards and farmscapes.
This is where an ordinary person can make a difference. And that’s the good news: We CAN help bring back this noble butterfly. But, to do so, will require the efforts of thousands, maybe millions of people. These efforts are already underway, and you can join in.
For more information visit these websites;
The Monarch Join Venture, MJV, is a partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental agencies, and academic programs working together to protect monarchs and their migration. Comprehensive overview of monarch conservation and links to important partner programs.
Two of the partners are
The Xerces Society. Check out their Milkweed Project: http://www.xerces.org/milkweed/
Excellent educational publications on milkweed and monarchs.
One of the society’s programs is their milkweed seed finder, where you can find sources for milkweed seeds: http://www.xerces.org/milkweed-seed-finder/
Another partner is Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas. They are a source of milkweed plants and have a lot of information about milkweed species, by state and ecoregion.