September 21, 2015

Monarchs on the Wing

Male monarch feeding on Tithonia at East Quarter Farms Community Garden in Concord
 For the first time in several years, monarchs have again been actively feeding and moving south through our area as their late season migration back to Mexico gets underway.  The plight of monarchs and their precipitous decline over the past 10-20 years has been widely discussed by scientists, the media, and conservation organizations.  It's now clear that increasing habitat destruction (particularly old fields where milkweed is most abundant), large-scale use of herbicides (particularly Roundup or glyphosates), the precipitous spread of black swallowwort ,and the rise of more severe weather events during their migratory seasons are having devastating effects on the global population of these magnificent butterflies.

Citizen reports of sightings (at all life stages) provide invaluable data for tracking the health of the monarch population throughout its range.  A wonderfully informative website (and App) are available to make reporting easy and provides seasonal news, natural history information and real time, animated maps to keep everyone informed of the monarchs' annual movements and activities.  Go to Monarch Joint Venture for a wealth of news and information on Monarch conservation efforts across the continent.  To record your sightings and follow the timing and movement of Monarchs annually, go to Journey North/Monarch Butterfly.

Underwing of butterfly above
What can we do to help?  Help disperse and propagate more milkweed in our communities.  Remove and destroy any black swallow-wort (Cynanchum louiseae) invasions on our property and help in community efforts to do the same.  Plant gardens with late season flowers (milkweeds, tithonia, zinnias, blazing star and others) to attract and nourish maturing and migrating butterflies.  Faithfully report monarch observations (at any lifecycle state) through the Journey North website.

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