Butterflies. Is there anyone that doesn’t like butterflies?
Children have always marveled at the flutter byes that visited their yards, gardens and vacant lots. It was in school that I discovered that these seemingly fragile insects were the result of a magical process called metamorphosis. In grammar school, many of us got to watch this happen. We fed leaves to caterpillars in terrariums, and, in a short while. these caterpillars began to weave thin silk-like threads over their entire bodies ultimately disappearing for a number of days–finally emerging as beautiful butterflies. Just before being ‘reborn’, the chrysalis became fairly transparent as the butterfly formed. I was transfixed.
Most people in North America can identify the Monarch Butterfly as millions of them visit every single state of the contiguous United States (the ‘lower 48’) during their yearly migration from their winter quarters in Mexico to as far north as the southern Canada–a one way journey measuring over 2000 miles one way. Four generations make this happen meaning that the great grandchildren of those that began this northern migration complete the round trip. This is the reason that despite many butterflies being endangered, I am focusing on this particular species as it is one of the only insects that migrate like birds, traveling thousands of miles pollinating a variety of vibrantly colorful flowers along the way, maintaining biodiversity and thereby contributing to the health of the earth. The flowers that Monarchs favor are colorful, grow in clusters, are open during the day, and have flat landing pad surfaces.
Environmental Action recently reported that, according to scientists, “monarch butterflies may vanish from the American West within the next 20 years. If you would like to help visit their website — Environmental Action. Sign the petition and consider becoming active. This organization has a wonderful packet of information that can be taken to your local garden outlets. If you decide to plant Milkweed, make sure that it is Native to the area. In the east, many wonderful people wanting to save the Monarch planted Tropical Milkweed. This has hastened extinction for two reasons. Tropical Milkweed is a Perennial, whereas Native Milkweed is an annual. As a result, the Monarchs don’t migrate. Even worse, Tropical Milkweed carries a protozoan parasite that is pass on to the Monarch Butterfly. Those infected are debilitated decreasing the population. The fix, naturally, is to replace the Tropical with the Native Milkweed. Ask your nursery which Milkweed is Native to your area.
Habitat loss, particularly associated with the destruction of Milkweed by the use of Monsanto’s Roundup (glyphosate), known as the ‘butterfly killer’ is the primary reason why the Monarch Butterfly population is in major decline. Both Environmental Action and Friends of the Earth have called for immediate action to help save this amazing insect. It appears that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) may cave to Monsanto’s pressures especially now since the Trump administration and Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA, is determined to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency.
Environmental Action recently reported that, according to scientists, “monarch butterflies may vanish from the American West within the next 20 years, recently lowered from 35 years. This organization has a wonderful packet of information that can be taken to your local garden outlets. Being actively involved is critical. Just click on the link above.
Native Milkweed is the only food that Monarch Caterpillars eat. As mentioned earlier, it takes four generations to make the round trip. If there is no more milkweed, their are no new generations. As said, people are determined to save them, so I feel positive that we can. Imagine the effect that this will have on all of us too as they are major pollinators. This is serious.
The following focuses on the Monarch migration east of the Rocky Mountains. Having wintered in Mexico, the wintering Monarchs (calling them the parent generation) begin their journey in March flying north stop in Texas and other southern states to feed and breed. The offspring, or first generation, begin their journey north in April and May, summering in the Northern States and Southern Canada. The second and third generations are born during the summer months. Around mid-August, the last generation (3rd or 4th) heads south to their wintering grounds in Mexico. The last generation that completes this roundtrip are the generation that begins the migration North the following year.
There is a very good article describing the planting and care of Narrowleaf Milkweed that is native to California, Nevada Oregon and Washington online at Butterfly Encounters. Check it out if you live West of the Rockies.
One might wonder how is this roundtrip migration possible since adult butterflies only live 2 to 6, some say 8 weeks. The wintering generation are unique in that they go through a cycle of suspended development known as diapause (a hibernation period). Their life span can be greater than seven months. These insects are so interesting, read on.
Butterflies do not actually sleep. Rather, they rest or become quiescent (dormant), at night or during the day when it is cloudy or cool. Their eyes are open, hanging upside down from twigs or leaves. Though most butterflies are hidden from sight, the thousands of monarch butterflies at rest often turn the trees that they’re suspended from bright orange — certainly not hidden. Thousands of people travel to Monterrey, California to see this wonder.
How is it that Monarch Butterflies make the same journey year after year especially when their trip requires many generations to complete? How this travel plan is passed on is coded in the Monarch genetic makeup. The navigational tool kit is one of those wonderful miracles of nature and the evolutionary process.
Monarch butterflies have a sophisticated system, named a time-adjusted sun compass by the scientists that study them. A time-adjusted sun compass tells us that Monarchs use the sun to navigate. Since the sun/earth is always moving, the compass adjusts in accordance to the position of the sun to maintain the direction of their migration. Knowing what time it is is essential, and a part of Monarch’s antennae contains a circadian clock (a 24-hour internal clock). Depending upon the time of day, the butterflies can then tell approximately where the sun should be taking into account the changing tilt of the earth to the sun. Special photoreceptors inside their eyes follow the angle of the sun. I wonder what this alogorithm looks like.
Again, if interested in helping to save the Monarch Butterfly and for more information, contact Environmental Action, Friends of the Earth (petition) and/or Save the Monarch Butterfly. The later includes ’10 Neat Things about Monarch Butterflies’ and a wonderful video entitled ‘The Beauty of Pollination.’ Thank you.
P.S. I am not affiliated with any of the organizations, people, or reading materials and videos that I recommend or offer links to (exceptions are the videos I make and take credit for). My intention is to inform and to get people to make it known how important it is to get involved in helping to fix our planet. It is possible. One overlooked yet very important way to help heal our planet is discussed in an article entitled Alan Savory and Schwartz’s Cows Save the Planet. Go to Table of Contents: Environmental Concerns and scroll down. Table of Contents: Environmental Concerns and Solutions Also highly recommend reading, Cows Save The Planet, Judith Schwartz.
Lastly, to support this blog and to get people to make loud statements about what they care about, many of the designs in this blog are available on wearing apparel, mugs, hats etc. This is my job, and I do need to support for what I do. I would be very grateful. Even so, my main concern, especially now that we have climate change deniers in charge of the EPA and other departments in Washington, is to get loud about our concerns. Visually state these whether you wear my designs or others. It is vastly important that we act. With all my love and respect for you, all sentient beings, and the beautiful home we call earth. NMRK
It is my intention to get people active, to march, to wear t-shirts pointing to the things we need to do to Save Our Home and many of the endangered species threatened right now, such as the Monarch Butterfly. Go to Cafe Press Earth and World Peace if interested.
Donations to environmental groups will be made from these sales. Join the Movement to Save Our Home.
Sign the Petition to save the EPA NRDC (Natural Defense Council)