California Drought: HOPE for the Monarchs?

The California drought could be a ray of HOPE for the Monarchs. Who would have thought that anything good could come out of the crisis in the West? BUT, it appears that this might be it: The California drought offers a ray of HOPE for one of the Wonders of Nature, the MONARCH!

sunflowerandmonarchWhile catching up on reading my local paper this morning (In paper, not digital form), I came across a positive article that agrees this might be possible, and explains why: “Monarchs Get Help From the Drought in California” by Gillian Flaccus (Associated Press). I would gladly give a link here, but I could not find the article online, only in print.

Californians are removing their lawns, a major part of their high water-dependent landscapes, and replacing them with drought-tolerant natives. These plants are natives to Californian deserts and chaparral. Native milkweeds, that being used in this lawn substitution, are essential to Monarch survival.

The female monarch will only lay her eggs on milkweed.
Every spring the monarch butterfly migrates thousands of miles in search of a milkweed plant, on which to lay her eggs.  When the eggs hatch, the caterpillars feed on the milkweed leaves. The milkweed plant then provides the perfect protection for one of the wonders of nature, as the caterpillar turns into a chrysalis, before transforming into an even greater  wonder: a monarch butterfly, which flies away.
The  milkweed seeds also fly away, on the wind.

***This cycle has gone on for eons.***

plant and monarchIt’s a fascinating journey, this cycle of the monarchs: It’s the monarchs that are born in early fall that make the long journey to Mexico, where they travel from 50-125 miles in a single day until they arrive in the fir forests of Mexico in early November & blanket the forest by the millions.  The usual life span of a butterfly is 4 to 6 weeks, but this fifth generation of monarchs that journey to Mexico usually live 8 months, or more.

What an amazing journey, it is!

Have you seen a monarch, lately?  I saw just ONE last year!

monarchcocoonTheir milkweeds are gone!  Monarchs have been dying out over the past two decades, with numbers dropping from 1 billion to less than 60 million. The milkweed, that monarchs depend on for survival, has been killed off in part by development, but mostly by Monsanto’s GMO crops that are repeatedly sprayed with Roundup. The spray and drift hits crops and kills everything else that exists in and around the fields. It has been killing all the “weeds”, everything on the edges of the fields that was once left for wildlife and pollinators.  Everything is killed except the genetically engineered crops that were created to tolerate repeated chemical dousing.
Nothing else stands a chance!

Hope for the Monarchs:

Back to the drought in California and how it’s giving Monarchs hope: Ecologists are hopeful that California gardeners’ use of plants that can help save water, can save monarchs at the same time. Nurseries are increasingly stocking multiple varieties of native milkweeds. In Vista, California, Tom Merriman says his native plants nursery did not sell milkweed at all 5 years ago, but sold more than 14,00 plants this year and sent truckloads of milkweed seedlings to California and other dry Western states, like Arizona. He has an atrium next to his greenhouses, with monarchs flying about, and chrysales throughout the nursery. “If you plant, they will come”, Tom says.

California gardeners are doing this out of necessity: giving up lawns for native plants, thereby offering a ray of hope to the monarchs of the west.  Why can’t gardeners everywhere do the same? Plant native milkweeds!

migration mapNotice this map showing the amazing annual migration path of the monarchs back to Mexico, Monarch migrationeach winter. The main “path” is not the west, along California.  The main path is through the center of the country, and east, where most of the agriculture is located.
Monarchs need all the help they can get!

How about finding out which milkweeds are native in your area and planting some in your garden?
A couple of places to get you started.

Monarch caterpillarMonarch Milkweed Seed Mix for Southern States, 100 Certified Pure Live Seed
Species are native and adapted to region
—- We are seed growers so we control quality
—- A mix of 4 milkweed species that are host plants
– and food sources for Monarch larva
– as well as nectar sources for adult Monarchs
Live Monarch

And, why not get rid of your resource-guzzling lawn and replace it with MILKWEEDS and other native plants?

lawn gone    Monarchs in a changing world

This different kind of drought resistant landscaping, without lawn.and with native plants, will most likely become a necessity for all of us, eventually.  BUT, the Monarchs and other endangered creatures, cannot wait.  Why not give Hope for the Monarchs, NOW, and start planting native plants, especially milkweeds!