This week we’re talking Monarchs, as in the butterfly. These lovely butterflies are easily the most widely recognizable, as well as the most popular of their kind. What you may not know is that their numbers have taken a frightening downward spiral in the last two decades. Experts have stated that the number of these pollinators has decreased more than 90% due to environmental factors and lack of food source.
Monarchs need milkweed to reproduce and feed their caterpillars. Planting multiple native varieties is a good way to invite Monarchs and other butterflies to your yard. So what can you do to help the disappearing Monarchs? Plant milkweed or if you have farmland do not spray milkweed with herbicides. You can also look at planting a butterfly garden in your yard. Plant milkweed with the kids and study the life cycle of the Monarch. It will be an activity they will never forget.
Milkweeds seeds can sometimes be hard to find; you’re looking for milkweed that grows in our area (native milkweed). There are now websites that specialize in trading seeds or sending you seeds for free.
You can also find seed bombs and plugs on sites like Amazon, but it’s important to plant milkweed native to this area. I’ve taken the following explanation from Laspilitas.com, “The alkaloids associated with [Monarch] milkweed and other milkweeds give the monarch and other butterflies that feed on it protection from predators. Alkaloids from the wrong milkweed (South American, Mexican, etc.) can expose the butterflies to predation. If the monarch or other butterfly has not evolved with the milkweed they may have limited tolerance for the particular alkaloid or latex of the plant species.”
HERE is a list of California milkweeds, but here are some of the varieties that work well for our area: Purple milkweed, Heartleaved milkweed, Desert milkweed, Monarch Milkweed and Wooly Milkweed.
If you’d like to learn more, you can attend a free, public program entitled “Monarchs and Milkweed” this Thursday, Sept. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Three Rivers Library. The program will be presented by Marcia Goldstein, Master Gardener, and Carole Clum, nature advocate, who will discuss how the milkweed plant can help the fragile butterflies survive and thrive in local gardens. For more information call (559) 561-4564.