Thursday, April 24, 2014

My journey with the monarchs: No.2


Originally . . . I had really wanted to plan all of this out, from beginning
to end before sharing this series, but time has just not allowed for that.
Instead, I sit here flying by the seat of my pants hoping that I can convey
what is in my heart, and any lessons that I learned along the way.
So,
when I forget something, and I'm sure I will, I'll be back to share
when I remember, deal?

(you can find the first in this series, here)


Milkweed: Loss of Habitat


The milkweed plant (genus Asclepias) is the only host plant that a monarch will lay their eggs on and eat as larva. And, their habitat as well as the monarch itself has severely declined. In fact, the Monarch Population Status, the overwintering numbers from Mexico this past fall were the lowest ever recorded since they started counting them 20 year ago.

I remember last November, around Thanksgiving, reading an article that showed up in my Facebook feed and I got a pit in my stomach. You see, they estimate that a billion or more monarchs once made the 2,500 mile trip along the migration route and although each year it varies and sometimes extremely, the size of their migration has over the last decade been in a steep and steady decline. In 2012 there were just over 60 million monarchs that made it to their overwintering sites, which was a record low, until this past fall when only 33 million butterflies made it covering only 1.65 acres.

Two years ago, here in Texas we had a massive drought which became a problem as they migrated back through to Mexico most likely not finding any nectar to survive the trip. And before that there was a catastrophic weather event in Mexico while they were overwintering that killed millions upon millions of butterflies that would never make the trip back north. Even this spring has proven to be difficult with prolonged cold temperatures. But, their dwindling numbers go well beyond the things that we cannot control.



But probably the most detrimental to the monarch has been their loss of habitat. The expansion of row crops, namely corn and soybean where the milkweed grew,  is now being planted with crops that are herbicide (roundup) resistant. When the farmers plowed the fields to keep weeds at bay, the milkweed would just eventually grow back, but now with all the chemicals they have all but been wiped out. Some states have lost up to 90% of their native milkweed.



The monarch has shown in the past that they can over a several year period, and with good weather, bounce back. But how can they continue to do that if there is less and less milkweed each year. 



And you know what? There is a direct correlation between the introduction of Monsanto's GMO corn and soybeans, the loss of milkweed, and the decline of the monarch. 


Right here, right now, the best chance that the monarch has is for each of us to plant milkweed in our gardens along with nectar plants. You can find milkweed plant & seed suppliers here

Their mortality rate in the wild, without any of these other obstacles is about 90-95 %, maybe even a little more. Besides all of the other obstacles, the red wasps and assassin bugs here love to eat them, and they become hosts to a multitude of parasitoids, and diseases. Then there is the problem with things like aphids, spider mites, and thrips which can all cause problems with the quality of the milkweed itself.

I had a friend ask me the other day why I bring the caterpillars inside, why didn't I just leave them outside where they belong? Last year I raised and released over 400 monarch butterflies and according to statistics, if left to their own in nature that would have equated to about 30-40 butterflies. I live in Texas, and we are a very important corridor in the migration both north and south. Some of the very first eggs are laid here, to be the next generation to continue their incredible journey north. And then finally it's the 4th or 5th generation of this amazing butterfly, that will begin the longest migration of any insect as they journey south 2,500 miles to a place it has never been, to overwinter and begin the cycle again the next spring. 

For me their story is about hope and renewal and beauty through change. For me, it's a little miracle. So I bring them inside to give them a fighting chance until they can fight it again on their own. 

We all need a little help now and again, don't we?
(No 3 in the series can be found here)

Until next time -
Love, Kim






  

44 comments:

Jeanne said...

Beautiful post kim and it is so tragic when we see te beauty of nature having so much trouble surviving. Thinkgs we have taken, so often, for granted as always being there. Saddening.

Andy said...

Kim you amazing with tender loving care that you giving to these Kings and Queens.

Sarah Carletti said...

Amazing captures and I love that you can see one of the girls blurred out below the flower.

aspiritofsimplicity said...

I miss seeing the monarchs. We have patches of milkweed here and there around town. I plan on adding some to my yard this spring.

A Garden of Threads said...

Beautiful post companied by gorgeous photos. The milkweed has come off the noxious weed list here in Ontario. Yah!!

Pride In Photos said...

Kim, I have been wanting to reach out to you! I have moved to HOUSTON in the last month. If you ever would like to meet for coffee/tea somewhere please give me an email shot. I would LOVE that!

Tamar SB said...

You are doing such an amazing job educating the blog world about this! They are such beautiful creatures that we need to protect!

Barbara said...

So pretty Kim, love the b/w so much and the one with the little onecoming up the stack.

Dotti said...

Beautiful photos, beautiful thoughts and so appropriate for the week of Earth Day. We're going in search of milkweed this weekend ... but I draw the line at bringing it inside. We already garden organically, so fingers crossed.

Janet Bocciardi said...

Every animal needs a soul mate and friend. The monarch has found theirs.

Kim said...

Monsanto is the devil. I applaud you in your efforts to care for the smallest of these. You are doing so much to educate and preserve. It's inspiring! Your images are gorgeous to boot!

Susan said...

Great post, and awesome photos! Have a great Thursday!

Barb said...

Very sobering statistics... but I really like how you've laid it all out. I will plant Milkweed this year, but I don't know if it will grow in Canada. I just read "Flight Path" by Barbara Kingsolver. It's a fictional account of the Monarch's plight but still disturbing. Beautiful images as usual.

Kathryn said...

You are the butterfly queen, I love your passion and love for them and all things nature. Yep still having problems with email notifications . . . your comment didn't show up as one again today. Seriously thinking of switching to WordPress but the thought of having to get to grips with a new platform is enough to give me a headache. Will see what happens over the weekend.

tiarastantrums said...

love that this is your passion! last year the city sprayed the areas in the forest preserve and the retention ponds where there was TONS of milkweeds - my kids LOVED to go and select baby caterpillars and we would raise them to monarchs and let them go - last year - nothing. We could not find a single milkweed anywhere. I hope they come back this year.

Deanna said...

I love your passion for these beautiful creatures!!

Sarah Huizenga said...

Your love for this project shines through.

Kimberly Vensel said...

Another beautiful post! And gorgeous images!

We raised our first Monarchs in 2008 and thoroughly enjoyed the process. In 2010, we successfully raised 34 butterflies. It was a lot of work but it was a blast! My kids really enjoyed it. Though I think I enjoyed it even more. :) We have tried to raise at least a few every summer since. However, we barely saw any Monarchs last year due to a cold and rainy summer. I think I remember seeing 3 or 4 butterflies. We planted a bunch of milkweed seeds in the fall hoping we will get to raise a bunch this year.

I also had people ask me why I don't just leave them alone. I have read that the ones in the wild have only a 10% chance of survival. I am glad to do my part to help these beautiful creatures. So glad I am not alone. Thank you for caring so much!

Gail Dixon said...

We have those flowers in our botanical garden and I noticed how attracted to them the monarchs are. I will definitely plant some in my yard. Thank you for the info and your photos are exquisite!

My Garden Diaries said...

GOD BLESS YOU!!!!!!!!!!!! I am very passionate about passing on the word about GMOs and Monsanto and what they are doing to not only our food system but to our beautiful environment and our sweet flying friends....this post made me cry. It just makes me so sad to think that we are losing these butterflies. I planted Milkweed and will plant even more after this post. Your photos as always are stunning! Keep up the good work! All it takes is one person to start to pass it on and you have just done that!!!! Nicole xo

Sharon said...

This is amazing to me. I had no idea that milkweed is related to the life cycle of butterflies. You are an advocate for the delicate and beautiful in nature, Kim. Your passion shows. Lovely post!

Monas Picturesque said...

I love this post!
Butterflies inspire me so. Had one tattooed in my arm ;)
Have a happy Friday!

Mandy Willard said...

Hello Kim, Lovely images, but your story of the Monarch butterfly and milkweed, made me reaslise I had no idea of the problem. I live in southern England, so we don't really see the Monarch, nor do we seem to grow milkweed. I shall now do my best to find some milkweed plants or seeds and grow them in my garden, just in case a Monarch comes my way. Good luck with your Monarch nursery and I hope more people like you help.

Desirae R said...

This is really lovely! And beautiful pictures as well.

Viv@within the Frame said...

Once again big business destroys what is good about this world we live in. A very interesting post Kim not sure if we can grow milkweed in my corner but I will check it out.

deb @ frugal little bungalow said...

I live in Western Pa and do not think that I saw one monarch butterfly over the course of the summer here :(

Dina Lettre said...

Wow...so fascinating (and sad!), Kim. Does the milkweed bring in more bees, too? My boys are deathly afraid of bees, so we just don't have much that flowers at this house.

Beverly said...

Butterflies have long been kind of a "kindred spirit" to me. Since I was a little girl I have loved them and remember chasing after them, as I did birds. I salute you for all you do to help the monarch population, and I would love to get and grow the milkweed and see if any monarchs find them. Lovely post!!

Donna Hopkins said...

Kim, I have been an avid photographer of butterflies for years and have many images of monarchs with wings spread against a backdrop of milkweed. Your story was fascinating and so very sad. We are making steps to change our lifestyle to protect the environment and I thank you for your passion for the monarch population.

Michelle B said...

Very sad news for the monarch. I am now planning to find some milkweed to plant this weekend. Your type of milkweed is beautiful. I am not sure what type grows in Ohio, I will have to find that out too. :)

Melinda said...

Thanks you for this important post- and for your contribution to helping this sad situation. I became aware of this through reading Flight Behavior (although fictional, it sheds light on this terrible modern problem). Well done, Kim!

Cathy H. said...

I love the second segment of the butterfly posts! Gorgeous images! I don't know if I've ever seen milkweed plants. I probably have, just didn't know what it looks like! You are a wonderful crusader for the monarchs! I admire you for all your hard work!

Sherri B. said...

This is so sad...and yet so touching, too, as I read of your determination to save these beautiful beings.

Lisa said...

Amazing post and story. I never really took the time to think about all of this.

Loved the images as well.

Kelly Kardos said...

Kim-what an amazing and informational post. You have captivated your readers. You have such a beautiful soul. Xo

Sherry said...

The Monarch stops in our little Texas Panhandle town and I love seeing them. You are right, this year there were a lot less that made the stop. I have never thought of planting milkweed but I am going to give it a try. Thanks so much for sharing.

Stacey Dawn said...

I've got to get some to live in my yard.... to watch, and learn, and live.... and change with.

Caz Sultz said...

Loved your post, I am going to see if I can find some plants for them. I hate that all these chemicals are destroying so much habitat for the butterflies and the bees also .

shooter said...

Love these. especially number 1 and 4

shooter said...

Love these. especially number 1 and 4

shooter said...

Love these. especially number 1 and 4

Linda R said...

The passion you have for the monarchs is so special. Thanks for posting this. I would have had no idea this is happening. Your photos are beautiful..

Hugs~

Katherines Corner said...

what a lovely post my friend. Lovely photos and filled with wonder. Yes we do all need a little help sometimes. Hugs!

Liz said...

I agree with Tamar!

Beautfiul images Kim.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...