Monarchs make the news

Monarch Butterfly on Common Milkweed, photo by David Hobden

Pollinators are numerous and varied, but a segment that for the media comprises predominately butterflies or bees. Monarch Butterflies are well-known as the poster child for pollinators, only recently having to fight it out with the cute and furry Bumblebee for facetime on pollinator topics. However, the plight of the Monarchs remains: as a migratory species dependent upon very specific plants to complete its lifecycle, this is a very vulnerable butterfly to climate change and land conversion.

The Toronto Star published an article this weekend on the plight of the Monarchs, and made mention of some initiatives to encourage people to create pollinator gardens. Fletcher’s own Monarch Waystation Project (and waystations in general) wasn’t covered, but we’re always happy to see how important Monarchs are to people across Canada. Apparently, Monarchs made it to Calgary which is a first in recorded history! The biggest issue of Monarchs reaching even further destinations is that they cannot find sufficient food sources or larval host plants. This is a greater issue in the Prairies where grazing lands preclude introducing Common Milkweed nearby as it is poisonous to livestock. Thus, urban centres will become some of the most important habitat areas for migrating Monarchs.

Remember, anyone can start, maintain and register a waystation and it is an excellent project for community groups at schools, churches or community centres. If you are in the Windsor-Quebec Corridor you MUST learn about Dog-strangling Vine and how to identify this plant so that you can remove it as soon as you find it – especially near your own pollinator garden! Remember, Monarch Butterflies can confuse DSV for Common Milkweed when they lay their eggs, and the resulting caterpillars starve to death. DSV also chokes out plants used by pollinators, so truly it hasn’t many redeeming qualities (if any). If you are in a rural area near grazing livestock or forage crops, you needn’t worry about growing Common Milkweed as long as you remove the seed pods before they open to prevent spread. In fact, cutting back some of your plants after they flower may induce them to flower again, providing more nectar sources to those butterflies straggling in (likely they spent too long enjoying the volcanic hot springs in Michoacan!)

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