I will be on a LIQUIDS-ONLY FAST until December 20th, until Monarch butterflies are ensured enough milkweeds to lay eggs on and eat; THEN I WON’T EAT!
Today begins a season of fasting in remembrance of the fact that after a year of hand-wringing about monarch butterfly and milkweed declines, there is no substantial reorientation in our use of agricultural chemicals impacting them, no fewer acres going out of milkweed habitat and into ethanol production or urban development, and far less than 1000 acres of new milkweed habitat has been planted this year to offset the damage and deferred maintenance of healthy habitat that monarchs have suffered the last 15 years.
Dara Satterfield hadn’t planned to conduct experiments at the Texas State Fair, but that is where her study subjects showed up last month. She was still in Georgia when they arrived, so she hurriedly packed her car, then drove all night. As she pulled into the fairgrounds in Dallas the next morning, they were feasting on nectar-filled blossoms of frostweed alongside the Wild West Pet Palooza.
The hungry travelers, like most monarch butterflies that migrate from breeding grounds in the northern United States and southern Canada, had stopped in Texas to consume enough calories to power the last leg of their flight to the oyamel fir forests of central Mexico and survive five months overwintering there.
Nearly every autumn, I head to the hills to band and release hawks, eagles and other powerful raptors as they ride the mountains’ updraft on their southern migration. While there, I always used to marvel at another autumnal migrant, tiny but no less magnificent — monarch butterflies, flapping earnestly on their delicate wings, dappling the ridge top orange and black.
Although they weigh less than a tenth-of-an-ounce, the monarchs’ 2,500-mile annual transcontinental journey to Mexico is longer than that of most raptors. They fly north from Mexico across the Midwest and up the eastern seaboard, to Canada — and back again, all in one summer. The yearly trek requires several generations.
Partners and other stakeholders convened October 2nd and 3rd at the Monarch Joint Venture annual meeting held at the USFWS National Conservation Training Center, and what a great meeting it was! An enthusiastic group gathered to explore potential partnerships through the MJV and discuss next steps for monarch conservation.
For many, it was an opportunity to network with other monarch conservation experts and strengthen existing programs by forming new collaborations.
Recently, my orchard and garden “decided” that I needed more time in the wild to see how plants and animals really worked together, so they evicted me from cultivated ground of my own making, somehow giving me a concussion and a fractured rib on my way out.
However slow I usually am to get the picture, this time, I got the message loud and clear: if I were truly interested in seeing how to design farmscapes to harbor beneficial insects such as monarch butterflies and native bees, I needed to “apprentice myself” to a wild habitat where such healthy relationships are the norm, not the exception.
Two years ago migrating monarch butterflies transformed the lush gardens of Cape May Point into a series of “giant orange snowglobes.” That’s how Mark Garland of the Monarch Monitoring Project describes the good monarch days, the kind of days when thousands fly overhead.
There’s been no such spectacle yet this year, but Garland and members of the project’s team, who take a census of the monarchs three times a day, are holding out hope. The popular orange-and-black insects will be drifting toward this peninsula for a few more weeks to fill up on nectar before riding the winds that will hoist them over the Delaware Bay and on toward Mexico.
There is growing evidence that many pollinators and plants are being triggered into earlier but not necessarily synchronous activity by the same temperature shifts associated with global warming. Find out what strategies you can implement in your own garden, orchard, or farm to enhance your plant pollinator habitat.
With climatic uncertainty now “the new normal,” many farmers, gardeners, and orchardists in North America are desperately seeking ways to adapt how they grow food in the face of climate change…
Monarchs and Maize in Mexico: New Actions to Protect Threatened Butterflies and Corn Diversity Go Hand in Hand
How is the decline of monarch butterflies and its relation to the management of corn seen from south of the Mexican border with the U.S.? Recently, we went to the cradle of origin of maize in Oaxaca not to do our own research, but to simply listen to Mexican researchers, farmers, artists and chefs.
Because both the monarch and maize have been iconic symbols of life in Mesoamerica for millennia, we wanted to hear how Mexicans perceived issues surrounding their conservation from scientific, cultural and political perspectives.