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Tag Archive | "Monarch butterflies"

Wintering Monarchs


A Monarch Butterfly feeding on Swamp Milkweed.

A Monarch Butterfly feeding on Swamp Milkweed. 

You can save the world for monarch butterflies in your yard. Monarch numbers are down.

Follow through on a New Year’s Resolution to save the world for Monarchs. Make sure milkweeds grow in your garden or on disturbed ground. Saving the world is within our grasp if we are responsible Earth stewards. Actions in our yards can make a difference for good. Grow milkweeds for the love of wildlife and beauty in your yard, as a religious mandate for creation stewardship, or to protect your own survival by keeping fellow inhabitants of Earth present that provide essential contributions to nature niches.

The following information is based on a New York Times article passed along by colleagues Barb Bloetscher and further massaged by Dave Horn.

Numbers of over wintering monarch butterflies are at record low numbers this year in Mexico. Last year’s estimate of 60 million was already a record low, and fewer than three million have appeared so far this fall (20 times fewer). Some fear that the spectacular monarch migration might be a thing of the past.

The decline is real, although the cause or causes are not obvious. Recently, scientists have focused on loss of native vegetation, especially in and around agricultural fields in mid America. As the price of corn has soared recently, farmers have expanded fields by plowing every available piece of land that can grow corn. Millions of acres once in conservation reserve are now plowed, and more and more herbicide is used in crop production. That has led to loss of many nectar sources plus uncounted acres of milkweed, the food for monarch caterpillars. It is estimated that Iowa has lost 60 to 90 percent of its milkweed. Roads, malls and sterile lawns have also contributed to the loss of food for monarch larvae and adults, along with those of other butterflies.

So what to do? Anyone with a yard or garden can increase biological diversity with a variety of wild and cultivated plants including milkweed. For additional ideas, log onto the Monarch Watch website: http://www.monarchwatch.org/

An additional note that I mentioned in a previous Nature Niche article is that genetically modified corn and soybeans have made crops resistant to herbicides. Plants necessary for wildlife cannot survive the increased herbicide use. Monarchs have lost most food sources between Mexico and Michigan. Our yards are essential habitat and each of us is essential in the effort to maintain healthy biodiversity. Our cities and our rural yards are the new Ark for Monarchs, Earth, and us.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.

 

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Pod People


 By Ranger Steve Mueller

Common milkweed gone to seed.

Common milkweed gone to seed.

Many of us remember the movie where giant pods took over human bodies while people slept. Now when I talk about pod people, I refer to people that collect milkweed pods to gather seeds to take over patches of the yard to help monarch butterflies. Suggested methods of collecting and spreading seeds will help milkweed success. Following my recent monarch article, I received questions about when and how to best plant milkweeds. Now is the time to be a pod person and collect pods.

Milkweed seeds need a cold period to improve germination. Keep seeds dry when cold treating during winter to prevent mold or bacteria from causing destruction. Milkweeds are herbaceous perennials that grow from rootstocks in the spring so seeds are not their only way to maintain a population. The seeds have a parachute called a coma for dispersal. The coma or plume spreads seeds when blown by the wind.

To plant seeds it is best to remove the comas so they do not disperse from where you want them. The easiest way to remove them is by collecting mature pods that are ready to open. Squeeze the pod to open. If pods open easily, they are mature and ready for harvest. Seeds will be brown rather than pale or green.

After the pod is opened grab the center support stalk at the pointed end and hold it tightly. Use your thumb to remove seeds from the coma. Store dry seeds where they will receive prolonged cold. In spring it is helpful to further vernalize seeds by placing seeds between damp paper towels for a few cold weeks. They can be kept in plastic bags during this cold treatment. An alternate method is to refrigerate dry seeds and place them in warm water for 24 hours to improve germination rates. Store seeds dry to protect from mold and bacteria and keep them secure from insects and mice.

Milkweeds grow best in sandy (light) soils rather than clay (heavy) soils. Their nature niche is adapted for disturbed soils in full sun where competition from existing plants is few or lacking. Plant the seeds in spring while weather is still cool because high summer temperatures may prevent germination. The plants produce large numbers of seeds because few survive to grow. The method described helps improve seeds germination and plant survival rates as well as providing greater opportunity for monarch survival. Monarch caterpillars feed on the leaves and the adults of many kinds of butterflies find the nectar from milkweed flowers among the best nature has to offer.

Enjoy smelling the rich fragrance when milkweed flowers perfume the yard better than most wildflowers.

The following You Tube video shows the milkweed seed collecting process:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFXWitrxOmQ

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.

 

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Monarchs of Hope


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 odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.

 

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