Monday, 21 July 2014

They are here! They are here! Monarch butterfly sightings!

My favourite photo!
Caterpillar and momma!
It's been around twice. Finally, I managed photos! Our milkweed is prolific and waiting! It seems that the Monarchs will rebound.

On Sunday afternoon, I saw one chasing another one of the milkweed patches! Twitterpated!
Why do we need Monarchs? They pollinate plants, including corn.
They require milkweed species, for this is where they lay their eggs, and it is the first food of the Monarch caterpillar larvae. They don't eat milkweed pollen exclusively, which is good, since they do not always get north in early July when they start to bloom.
  • Average life span in the wild: Up to 6 to 8 months  
  • Size: Wingspan 9.4 => 10.5 cm 
  • Weight: 0.27 => 0.75 gram (A Smarty weighs about a half gram.)

From National Geographic...

Omar Vidal, director general of WWF-Mexico, noted by email: "The monarch butterfly as a species is not endangered. What is endangered is its migratory phenomenon from Canada to Mexico and back."

The number of migrating monarchs is plummeting for a few reasons: widespread loss of a plant called milkweed, which their young rely on for food; extreme climate fluctuations in North America, including freezing temperatures and heavy rain; and deforestation. (Watch video: "Growing Up Butterfly.")

Once widespread throughout the U.S., the plant has seen its range fall 58 percent due to herbicide use, especially on corn and soybean fields.

The Year the Monarch Didn’t Appear

Last year’s low (2012) of 60 million now seems great compared with the fewer than three million that have shown up so far this year (2013). Some experts fear that the spectacular migration could be near collapse.

A big part of it is the way the United States farms. As the price of corn has soared in recent years, driven by federal subsidies for biofuels, farmers have expanded their fields. That has meant plowing every scrap of earth that can grow a corn plant, including millions of acres of land once reserved in a federal program for conservation purposes.

The berries are plentiful, too!

Pave Paradise - put up a parking lot

Many fields are gone. Forests, as well, replaced with parking lots or things like grass. We forget about such across this continent –for all species of fauna, including birds and bees. It's the worst at cottages, where folks need a city-like lot, apparently.

"Native trees are not only grocery stores, but insect pharmacies as well. Trees and other plants have beneficial chemicals essential to the health of bugs. Some monarchs, when afflicted with parasites, seek out more toxic types of milkweed because they kill the parasites. Bees use medicinal resins from aspen and willow trees that are antifungal, antimicrobial and antiviral, to line their nests and to fight infection and diseases."
--Jim Robbins is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and the author of “The Man Who Planted Trees.

The milkweed prolific - Monarch visits.

There are huge fluctuations...
There is much that has gone wrong with them in the past: 2012 drought, subsequent lack of food for the flight south, pesticide use on milkweed, loss of habitat. My Facebook friends are reporting many sightings of Monarch. I was sure it would bounce back.

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars

These are photos from 2011.


Some put up boxes, and host the caterpillars.

From Journey North: At Home
Create monarch habitat by planting a butterfly garden.
  • Plant native milkweedSome non-native plants disturb migratory patterns.
  • Provide nectar plants
    Include flowers that bloom during fall migration.
  • Avoid pesticides
    Pesticides kill monarchs at all stages of the life cycle
  • Report your monarch observations
    Scientists need data to understand all stages of the monarch's annual cycle. Citizen scientists contribute valuable observations.
Access data in Archives

Record datagraphSummary and Analysis chart
Maps | DataRecording ChartBlank | SampleChart | Guide


Olga Hebert said...

I will have to go into the field out back and check the milkweed there. It would be wonderful to see the monarchs come back.

Red said...

We need people like you who are knowledgeable and support the monarchs. As well as plant pollinators , they are beauties.

Nancy J said...

The Monarch Butterfly, for me, is one of , well really the one, of the most stunning to watch as it goes through the life cycles, That fist opening, fluttering the still damp wings, hoping for gentle sunshine, then flying bravely off. Love all the info and super photos Jennifer, Cheers,Jean.

William Kendall said...

We do so many things without heeding the consequences. The consequences of the loss of these beautiful insects range beyond the loss of seeing them.

Roan said...

I saw my first Monarch last week. They are amazing creatures!

Anonymous said...

Oh wow - how wonderful!

Judy said...

I hope I get to see some monarchs this year!!!