Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche
By Ranger Steve Mueller
It was asked to write on behalf of Monarch butterflies. I expect to see the first Monarch’s arrive during Memorial Day Weekend. I usually see them in the Upper Peninsula before I see them in the Lower Peninsula. I have wondered why? First, I think they follow the Mississippi River and tributary rivers northward and then spread east and west from the major drainage.
By following the Mississippi flyway they funnel northward to Minnesota and Wisconsin and reach the UP with greater haste than making it around Lake Michigan. They must follow the Ohio River Valley also and make it directly eastward. West Michigan remains cooler in spring than Wisconsin and Minnesota because of regional cooling from Lake Michigan. Temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s often arrive in northern states to our west that do not have chilling waters of the big lake to refrigerate the climate.
This year a monarch was seen just north of Grand Rapids on May 2 while all other reports were only as far north as Tennessee and Oklahoma. Monarchs are a hope for the future despite growing odds against their survival chances. It has been predicted by scientific researchers like Lincoln Brower that the migratory phenomena of Monarchs in the North America may end during the lifetime of many of us.
How we maintain our yards is important for monarch survival. Our influence can help the existence of all life forms. We can enhance conditions that promote living space for species that share our yards or we can make landscapes sterile with extensive lawns. Yard care in neighborhoods is critical for life on Earth. Hence the famous quote “Think globally and act locally.”
Benefits from native landscaping your yard save money because we consume less gas by mowing less. As our own species becomes more populous we can maintain yards to enjoy and preserve natural beauty and wildlife.
“Monarchs of Hope.” Like all species Monarchs do what they can to survive, reproduce, and continue their lineage. Monarch butterflies face survival problems but we can make a difference to benefit Monarch’s.
Which solutions might you do in your yard with family focused activities?
-Encourage milkweed and nectar plants as habitat for Monarchs.
-Avoid or reduce pesticide use in yards and gardens. Live with nature.
-Maintain fencerows on farmlands instead of “clean farming” to provide wildlife living space.
Fencerows were encouraged after the dust bowl to help save farmers from bankruptcy and poor land management causing soil loss. It provided essential habitat for native species. Income from farming every foot of land places farm security at risk and it diminishes land quality.
-Migratory corridors can provide safe harbor habitats free from pesticides and herbicides. People across the nation can do this locally in yards. Do not underestimate the importance of your personal effort.
-Migratory corridors with shelterbelts containing food, water, shelter, in appropriate abundance for migratory species can be funded with government grants for conservation easements.
-Visit winter refuges where Monarchs hibernate in Mexico to support the local economy so Monarch forests will be maintained.
The real Monarchs of Hope in this story are families willing to maintain healthy nature niche landscapes with less lawn and more nature.
Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the firstname.lastname@example.org Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.