Partnering for the Monarch Butterfly- – by Jenn Stumer, – Appalachian Creations, Inc.
Did you know that the monarch butterfly is in crisis? Even to the point of being considered for the endangered species list? This is bad news in more ways than one. The monarch butterfly is North America’s most loved insect and they contribute to the health of our planet by pollinating many types of wildflowers. This article will discuss how Appalachian Creations, Inc. is partnering for the Monarch Butterfly.
Recently, a concerned group of individuals from the Butterfly Garden Committee of Hope Lutheran Church in Cherryville, PA approached me with a plan to create a butterfly haven. The location chosen is an area in the Uptown Park in the borough of Northampton, the site of our most recent community landscape project. The group, headed up by Reverend Jerry Mraz, received the go-ahead from the Northampton Borough Council. Appalachian will be donating the labor to prepare the proposed sections of the park and the Butterfly Garden Committee will be procuring the milkweed and butterfly plants. The group even went so far as to apply for grants and received approval for $500!
According to the Center for Food Safety, monarch numbers have been declining steadily for the last 20 years. Although monarchs feed on the nectar of many flowers, they lay their eggs only on certain types of milkweed plants. Monarchs need milkweed to survive because it hosts much of their life cycle. The eggs hatch into caterpillars and feed on the milkweed through the five stages of their growth.
Unfortunately, milkweeds are often eradicated as noxious weeds. Especially in the last two decades where we saw the introduction of Round-Up Ready (RR) corn and soybeans. Round-Up Ready crops are genetically engineered to survive direct broadcast application of glyphosate. Glyphosate, (otherwise known as Round-Up) is one of the very few herbicides that is effective on milkweed. Once absorbed it kills milkweed to the root and prevents regeneration.
There are two other unrelated reasons for the decline of the monarch. One is the deforestation and development of their winter habitats in Mexico and California. The other is climate change. Especially during the last decade, changes in climate have brought on more out-of-season storms, severe temperature drops and excessive rain. The combination of both wet and cold is deadly and has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of millions of butterflies.
What can be done? Obviously, here in the Lehigh Valley, we have very little power over the deforestation/development on the other side of the continent. And we have absolutely no power over climate change. Only one resolution remains – we must plant milkweed. And we must create habitats that attract monarchs. The Uptown Park Monarch project is just one small step in the direction of partnering for the monarch.