A Walk Through a Meadow In Search of Monarchs
It is no wonder that it is here, in the northern states and southern Canada, that the monarchs come to summer. Despite all the common milkweed I see here, there has been a 58% decrease in milkweed numbers across the Midwest between 1999 and 2010 because of herbicide use and loss of habitat (source: University of Minnesota). This has serious consequences for the future of the monarch's migration.
On our most recent visit to Michigan, I had the privilege of touring a family friend's garden. Everything is grown organically here. As impressive as her garden is I was drawn to the meadow that covers a good part of her 14 acres.
The meadow is filled with Queen Anne's Lace intermingled with butterfly weed and common milkweed. Along the edge of the meadow grows ironweed and yarrow.
With all the milkweed I went on a hunt for monarch butterflies, eggs and caterpillars. This is what I discovered on my walk through the meadow.
|Black swallowtail (male)|
I inspected more milkweed. Still no signs of the monarchs. But a few red milkweed beetles that also feed on common milkweed.
|red milkweed beetle|
More Queen Anne's Lace. It looks beautiful swaying in the breeze and the birds perched on the tall stalks while hunting insects.
How do you feel about this non-native, biennial plant. It is a wild carrot introduced from Europe and does compete with native plants. Some insects have benefited from its introduction such as the black swallowtail butterfly which has adapted to use it as a host plant. Other insects such as the green lacewing come to the plant to find aphids and bees and butterflies sip on its nectar.
This plant is very abundant in Michigan, even more so than what I see growing in Georgia. It spreads its seeds by wind and is quite invasive.
But, on with the hunt...
More butterfly weed and more butterflies, but still no evidence of the monarchs. I was getting somewhat discouraged. So much milkweed and no monarchs. This spring's cool and wet weather has been hard on all butterfly populations and this doesn't help the situation when the monarchs are already in peril. The monarch populations crashed last summer and this summer the populations started low and have been staying low.
|silver checkerspot butterflies|
Could it be...
A sign of hope!
Many of us are doing what we can to help the monarch populations and that has to be worth something! We have to hopeful!