10 June 2019
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To avoid melancholy in my written voice I am going to quote an article that uplifts, and sustains that feeling for at least a few inhales and exhales. In yesterday’s Tip column in The New York Times Magazine an article about butterflies and especially monarchs cheered my inner spirit, at least temporarily.
My milkweed plants, which lure the monarchs, are in full bloom. I’m watching anxiously for a sighting of those spritely butterflies. And still I pause, knowing these tiny winged creatures represent resilience and the survival of human intervention.
Here is the entire how-to column from journalist Malia Wollan’s article, “How to Attract Butterflies.” In three paragraphs she provides the reader with pertinent facts and suggestions for action to participate on behalf of the butterfly population. She evokes optimism as the threat for the disappearance of many species continues.
Here is Wollan’s commentary published Sunday, 09 June 2019:
If you plant it, they will come,” says Catherine Werner, sustainability director for the city of St. Louis, Mo., referring to the milkweed on which female monarch butterflies lay their eggs and the resulting caterpillars hatch and feed. Since 2014, Werner has led the Milkweeds for Monarchs program, which now includes a 30-acre pollinator pathway along the Mississippi River and more than 400 milkweed and nectar-flower gardens in backyards, front yards, schoolyards and rooftops across the city.
To appeal to monarchs and other butterflies, plant a nine-square-foot plot in a sunny location with a mix of nectar plants and milkweed, a wildflower. Use at least three different milkweed varieties native to your area (look for regional guides online). “Don’t plant tropical milkweed,” Werner says; it isn’t native and can harbor monarch parasites. And to avoid disrupting the reproductive cycle of Western monarchs, don’t plant any kind of milkweed if you live within five miles of the California coast.
Old-timers in St. Louis remember the sky being darkened by delicate orange and black wings. In more recent decades, though, the number of monarchs has plummeted by some 80 percent in the East and 99 percent in the West. Next year, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is expected to decide whether to include the butterfly on the endangered species list. Entomologists think the decline in the Eastern monarch population, which flies through St. Louis on its annual migration thousands of miles from Mexico to Canada and back again, may be due in part to farmers’ in the Midwest increasingly planting herbicide-tolerant corn and soybeans. The herbicides sprayed on these crops kill milkweed in agricultural regions, where female butterflies are especially prone to lay their eggs. “Don’t use pesticides or any other chemicals if you’re trying to attract butterflies,” Werner says.
With as few as nine plants and an hour or so of spadework, you can grow a sanctuary. Werner planted milkweed plots in both her front yard and backyard; she recently counted more than 30 monarchs flying by the city’s Gateway Arch in just five minutes; someone snapped photos of a monarch caterpillar on milkweed in front of city hall; and the number of butterfly gardens is already about double the program’s goal. “You can make a real difference for these ethereal creatures,” she says.
In the Lens section is my weekly image: Palm Photomontage, Longwood Gardens. It seemed an apt composite to emphasize that changes in the environment and weather are not black-and-white issues. Effects are incremental and increasing.
While there are layers and layers of catastrophic problems, there also are multiple solutions. And some that you and I can do immediately: eliminate use of chemicals inside and out, plant natives flowering plants, reduce consumption and waste, recycle, and cultivate habitats for wildlife. Regardless of the season of the year where you live, these are ways to protect and preserve some of the earth’s resources. It also elevates my mood to do something, anything that might help.
I hope that Wollan’s suggestions prompt you to plant milkweed that lures monarchs and other butterflies. The plant acts as a host and is a source to keep their life cycle ongoing.
I also hope that you take a small or giant step to help secure the future of Mother Earth. And, yes, spread the word.