Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Monarch Migration Threatened

Migration starts as an egg - Linda Bower
Linda Bower dropped off some of her 300+ monarch eggs and caterpillars for adoption.  Raising them appears easy relative to the teenagers who pupated from our house years ago.  In this case it just needs a steady supply of milkweed and removing the frass (insect poop) from the container at regular intervals.  On second thought, our little Frick and Frack below are not that far different from a newborn.
Frick, Frack and frass- REK
Why bother raising monarchs aside from curiosity and abiding interest in nature?  The fact that you are reading this blog suggests that you probably aware of the crisis that monarchs face.  In the last 20 years the monarch population has declined by 90%.  Their summer breeding grounds have decreased by 165 million acres.  The latest news this week:
"The Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety as co-lead petitioners joined by the Xerces Society and renowned monarch scientist Dr. Lincoln Brower filed a legal petition today to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking Endangered Species Act protection for monarch butterflies."
Many experts feel that the monarch is not threatened with extinction as it would survive in small numbers in Mexico and our border states.  What would likely disappear is the famous annual migration.  They depend upon milkweed to reproduce 3-4 times along the migration route, and it is rapidly disappearing.  A common "weed" in and along agricultural fields, it has virtually disappeared over many square miles of the migration, the victim of Roundup ready crops.  Meanwhile, the remaining land is being urbanization, neighborhoods, golf courses and rural homes with 10 acre lots, all mowed and weeded.

While looking for some large scale answers, you can start to help the migration in your own small way.
  1. Plant milkweed in your garden, land, ditches and roadsides.  The time to plant is in the fall as the seeds have to cold stratify (freeze and thaw) to germinate.
  2. Avoid the use of insecticides on flowers where butterflies obtain nectar.
  3. Consider raising Monarch butterflies.  There is a high mortality in nature on their journey from egg and caterpillar to adulthood, much of which can be avoided by home rearing.
Soon we will be describing methods to help you support the Monarch population. 

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