Tip of the Week
Save the Monarch
There has been a 90% drop in the population of the Monarch Butterfly in the United States over the past 20 years - and there is something gardeners can do to make a big difference in the demise.
We all recognize the iconic Monarch butterfly with its majestic orange and black wings. Butterflies are more than just beautiful; they are beneficial to the environment and your garden. Butterflies pollinate plants that produce about one-third of the food that we eat. They flutter from plant to plant drinking nectar, and as they move, they take pollen with them. The pollen is deposited on other plants, helping with the continuation and growth of many plant species. The presence of butterflies also signals a healthy environment. Because they are very sensitive to pesticides, if you keep an organic garden, chances are that butterflies and other beneficial insects like ladybugs and bees, which eat plant-damaging insects like aphids, will be present as well. That's good for the overall life and health of your garden!
Unfortunately, the butterfly we all know and love is losing its habitat, specifically Ascelpias spp. (sometimes called milkweed), to modern farming methods and population development. The Monarchs are the only North American butterflies that make a 3,000-mile migration to Mexico and California for the winter, taking 6-8 generations to complete the journey. The fragmentation of milkweed in their migratory path is significant because milkweed is the only host plant where Monarchs lay their eggs, and the sole food source for their larvae. With fewer host plants, their population is suffering as a result-90 percent decline over the last 20 years. Their population decline is so significant that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing to determine if the butterfly should be classified as "threatened" under the Federal Endangered Species Act.
As home gardeners, we can help to replenish the butterfly habitat by sowing milkweed and other butterfly friendly flowers. Our goal - Butterfly flower in every garden! Some other flower varieties that attract butterflies include Allium, Aster, Bee Balm (Monarda), Blue Bells (Campanula), Sweet William (Dianthus), Yarrow, Coneflower (Echinacea), Snapdragons, and Nicotiana.
Be a Butterfly Hero!
Pollinators, including the Monarch butterfly, are responsible for much of the food we eat. In recent years, butterflies have been losing their habitat to agricultural practices, development, and cropland conversion. But we can help! Join Botanical Interests, one of our seed packet supplier, in supporting the National Wildlife Federation's efforts to be a Butterfly Hero. Send a picture of yourself making the butterfly sign in sign language to www.nwf.org/butterflyheroes, and you'll receive a Butterfly Garden Starter kit, including a Botanical Interests seed packet, while supplies last. The kit inspires engagement with nature and encourages participants to send follow up photos through Facebook and Twitter of kids and families, butterflies, and other animals observed in nature. As home gardeners, we can replenish the butterfly habitat by sowing butterfly-friendly varieties in our home, school, and community gardens. Pledge to be a Butterfly Hero on www.nwf.org/butterflyheroes then visit our store to purchase many of the butterfly friendly varieties we offer!