Don’t Give Up On Monarch Butterflies
For about a week there’s been a single Monarch Butterfly flying around our garden, and paying particular attention to the Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). After I got a fuzzy picture with my phone, Judy sat outside on the front steps waiting for the Monarch to appear so she could get these photos with her Nikon and telephoto lens.
I’d like to think that this Monarch was testing out the Milkweed for laying eggs. (Can anyone tell from these photos if this is a male or female?). The front garden has big patches of Swamp Milkweed and Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa), but I have never seen a single Monarch caterpillar. As you probably already know, Monarch caterpillars eat only Milkweed plants.
It’s always exciting when the Monarchs make their appearance in the garden. Even so, it bothers me to see this single butterfly on its own. It reminds me how common they used to be as recently as the 1990s. Since then we have lost more than 90% of the Monarch population.
Conservationists have petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to add Monarchs to the Endangered Species List, but the lengthy review process means there will be no decision until 2016. In the meantime, individual gardeners, especially in the Midwest, can help by planting Milkweed in their gardens. There are several species that are extremely ornamental and much less aggressive than the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).
Since I already have lots of Milkweed, I’ve decided that this year I am going to badger at least five friends or neighbors into accepting young Milkweed plants for planting this fall. I’ll show up with a shovel and plant them myself. In secret, if I have to.
I’ll also continue to give away free Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) seeds this autumn for the second year in a row.
It’s a very small thing on its own, but I want to feel like I did something extra so that we can all have a few Monarchs in our gardens in future years. I want that lone Monarch to be a beginning, and not an end.