Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Texans! Save the Monarchs!

According to Monarch Watch, the drought in Texas may produce one of the lowest--if not lowest--overwintering population of monarch butterflies in Mexico this year. The drought has lead to fewer nectar plants in the final pit stop / major gathering place for monarchs before they make their final leap to Mexico. So if you can, restrictions or not, water your flowers.

And while you're visiting Monarch Watch, get your garden up to speed and then have it certified as a Monarch Waystation.

But if you're in Minnesota this weekend, you can help Monarch offspring that will come back north next spring by attending the Minneapolis Monarch Festival. Make milkweed seed mudballs, enjoy 4 acres of restored prairie on Lake Nokomis, make me happy. (You can also come dressed as a monarch butterfly but, personally, I think you'd look terribly strange.)

Of course, according to the Nature Conservancy, in 90 years we might not have enough water to even take care of our own food sources. They've recently forecasted temperatures in the middle Great Plains to rise by as much or more than 10 degrees--with Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa leading the pack. You can download a report on your state. Have fun.

A dry spring in Nebraska led to to a later and lesser appearance of Monarchs in my garden, at least that's my theory. I got home yesterday after a long weekend away and only found 5 caterpillars outside--4th and 5th instars. Last year, we were still plucking many younglings off the milkweed well into late September. Peak migration here is around September 15, so it does make some sense that there aren't many egg layers around.

12 comments:

James Golden said...

Three to five years ago, I always found two or three Monarch chrysalises. Last year I think I saw only one Monarch. This year, one or two just briefly passing by. I don't know what to make of it. Rather, I'm afraid of what to make of it. They're going, going, gone.

Susan Tomlinson said...

Got some good rain tonight. Pals on the other side of the state got some yesterday. May not be enough, though...

our friend Ben said...

I love the idea of making one's property a Monarch Waystation. Ours certainly is (unofficially, of course), with all our milkweeds encouraging them to stop in and lay eggs, then drift around our Cultivated Wild Meadow later in the season. But we too have seen fewer this year. as for those folks who show up dressed as monarchs, unless the monarch happens to be Louis XIV or Henry VIII, well, look out. Thanks for getting the word out!

Pam said...

Thanks for this post. I have noticed fewer monarchs here, but hadn't looked into it. I need to read more - so this was definitely motivation.

Benjamin Vogt said...

James--Apparently Minesota is a major birthign ground, and this year it's been bone dry. That doesn't help.
Susan--And now it's flooding in most of Texas! That's not any better, is it?
OFB--How about a French king with wings?
Pam--You don't need to read more. Reading is silly.

Mary said...

Well, down here in Central Texas we did finally get rain. Not enough to break the drought, but enough to make the flowers and the humans happy, at least for awhile. And yesterday I did notice several Monarchs visiting my garden...so there's still hope.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Mary--Terrific! Good news! I keep hering such dire predictiosn about the monarch population. I wonder how long it takes to recover from a bad year, or if they can given so many new environmental factors forced upon them (less forest in MX, less milkweed in USA).

Sue said...

A few days ago, I looked into becoming a waystation, and plan to do it in the next few days. My yard already meets the requirements. I haven't seen as many kinds of butterflies this season, but have seen 2 to 4 butterflies every day for a couple months. A week or two ago, I saw lots several days in a row, and was able to count 8 of them on some zinnias and the Mexican sunflowers I planted for the first time this year. I've also seen them on other flowers.

I haven't seen as many the last few days, but haven't been out as much because I tripped on our dog's leash a couple weeks ago, and have been trying to make myself stay off of it so it will heal. I have continued to see 1 or more monarchs each day, though.

I have several kinds of milkweed, but haven't seen any caterpillars. I have seen chewed leaves, though. I haven't checked the smaller butterfly milkweeds that are mixed with other flowers, though.

Sue said...

By the way, I don't know if you remember that we talked through our blogs last winter. I live in LIncoln, too.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Sue--I remember ya! You won't be seeing Monarchs much longer, as peak migration was 9/10-9/22 through our latitude. I've continued to see about 1 per day the last few days, and even have one chrysalis outside I know of ready to open today. I've had LOTS of butterflies this year as my garden gets bigger and more diverse, esp: monarchs, viceroys, skippers, both swallowtails. I had dozens of black swallowtail larva on my fennel and parsley (and zizia) this year.

Sue said...

I planted lots of fennel, parsley, 2 kinds, and dill across the street, dedicated to the caterpillars. The times I checked for them, I didn't see any, but maybe they were just hidden well. I guess I didn't check very often. There may not have been as much sun as they would prefer.

I did see some eggs and small swallowtail cats on the parsley I use at home, and avoided them the best I could. I did have to set a couple back into the patch.

I don't remember if I've seen viceroys. I've seen the others you mentioned, but not as many this year. I don't know what zizia is. I'll have to look it up.

Benjamin Vogt said...

My swallowtails loved the green fennel this year, parsley second, then bronze fennel (don't use them for cooking). And I was surprised to see two on the zizia, a native plant--turns out it's in the carrot family! That was neat to find out I had a plant that was a host.

If you have willows, that's where I've seen the viceroy eggs. On the tip of the leaf, on top. And I had some red-spotted purple butterflies on my crabs this summer, too--sorta look like black swallowtails.