This adorable insect that we all know and love is on the verge of extinction, and unless people act, future generations may never experience the joy of seeing them flutter about peacefully from flower to flower in summer time.
Female monarch butterflies only lay their eggs on milkweed plants. The larvae that hatch from the eggs eat only milkweed plants. The fate of the monarch butterfly rests entirely on the fate of the milkweed plant. Here are some pictures of milkweed growing on our farm. Notice the seed pod on some of the pictures.
So, what is happening to the milkweed plants? Many factors are contributing to the severe decrease in milkweed populations, but most experts blame industrial agriculture in the Midwest as the biggest cause for the decrease in milkweed.
Prior to the invention of non-selective broad leaf chemical herbicides (and crops genetically modified to be resistant to these herbicides), milkweed plants were happy to grow in corn fields or soybean fields, the two crops that occupy most agricultural land during the summer months. These crops are now modified so that they are not killed by non-selective broad leaf herbicides, but the milkweed plants are killed by the herbicide. Milkweed plants can no longer be found in any of these agricultural fields that spray these herbicides. This is a huge problem for the female monarch butterflies as they search for milkweed plants to lay their eggs.
What can you do to help? The typical home owner can put a few milkweed plants in their gardens. This alone would help the female monarchs quite a bit as they migrate from Mexico back to northern parts of the United States. If everyone in the country deliberately planted one milkweed plant, there would be over 300 million additional milkweed plants to support the monarchs.
If you live in the country, and have acres in lawn that you spend hours mowing each week, consider converting some of that land to a tall grassland, ideal habitat for milkweed plants.
Indirectly, you can support organic agriculture by purchasing organic whenever possible. Organic farmers are not permitted to use the herbicides that are preventing milkweed from growing.
Each of us has the choice to be a steward of the land, protecting it for future generations, or to pillage the land simply for economic gain until the soil is nothing but lifeless dirt…
Here on our farm, we chose to be stewards.