We’re sending thanks out to everyone who gathered with us at Stonehurst this week to begin making Vernon, Vermont a Monarch Butterfly Way Station. If you’re interested in the environment and nature, please consider joining us in this fun project! You can learn more about our efforts to save the endangered monarch butterfly here.
Vernon has many master gardeners and butterfly enthusiasts! We shared some milkweed seedlings (the Monarch caterpillar’s only food source) and will begin planting them in our gardens and back yards. We’re also reaching out to the Vernon Elementary School VES, the recreation department and the roads commissioner, asking them to support the project by planting milkweed where appropriate on public land.
In August and September we will meet again when the Monarchs are laying their eggs and beginning their metamorphoses. Please contact us through our Facebook if you’re interested in joining our butterfly rescue project or starting one in your own town. It’s fun, and there’s wine. What more could you ask for?
Monarch Butterflies are incredible. These delicate creatures weigh less than a gram, but travel thousands of miles every year in an extraordinary, multi-generational migration journey. They’re beautiful, well known for their bright orange and black wings, and they are a staple of American childhood. Many school children learn about metamorphosis through watching Monarchs grow from a caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly. They are one of the most popular butterflies in the world…so why are they dying?
Despite how loved they are, Monarchs are in trouble, and the evidence is everywhere. A few years ago, we’d have these wonderful butterflies all around our gardens and backyards, but this year we’ve only spotted one. Monarch populations have plummeted more than 90% in the last 20 years, and that’s sad news. (Read more about Monarchs and the reason for their disappearance here.)
But we still have hope.
This is where social media comes in. If you’ve been keeping up with us, you’ve probably noticed an influx of posts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and even Pinterest about our passion for Monarchs. While it’s all good fun to share photos and stories, it’s even more important to raise awareness about this pressing issue.
You can help save the monarchs by getting active and sharing your work on social media! Picking milkweed & planting the seeds or sending them to organizations like Monarch Watch is a great first step. Contacting your local legislators, getting involved with local environmental groups that work to save Monarchs, and writing to your local papers is even better!
We’re on a mission to bring Monarchs back to Vermont, and we hope that you will join us! Use the hashtag #MonarchsVT to share your activity with us, and the world! We’ll always follow you back & re-share. If you need help finding milkweed or seeds, send me an email at email@example.com and I’ll gladly help you out.
Just get out there and make your voice heard! Together, we can bring back Monarchs. Sign petitions, write to the companies who are responsible for their disappearance, write to your local government, get active! The Monarchs need us now more than ever.
Monarch butterflies migrate from Vermont (and other northern regions) 2500 miles south to Mexico every year at this time. In the spring and summer they return- that’s an annual journey of 5000 miles! The butterflies migrate to the exact same tree each and every year. In order to make the trip without literally falling apart, they reproduce 4 times en-route so it’s actually the 4th generation that returns to Mexico every winter.
The Monarch Population is in Free Fall
Last month I wrote about monarchs and the 90% drop in their population over the last few years. “In human-population terms it would be like losing every living person in the United States except those in Florida and Ohio” according to Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. The free fall is largely due to recent decimation of the butterfly’s habitat and food source, milkweed.
A Milkweed SeedBank is Born in Vermont
After researching the Monarch’s plight, I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t at least try to do something to help. So last weekend I spent much of my time wandering through an empty lot on Rt 142 in Vernon, collecting milkweed seeds. I recruited Dennis, Kelsey and Nina to help me. Realtor, David Berrie of Berrie Real Estate in Newfane, VT owns the lot and he was kind enough to allow us to “take all the milkweed you want!” I think that ended up being about 1000 seedpods. The Nature Institute estimates there are an average of 226 seeds in each milkweed pod so we probably harvested around a quarter of a million seeds. We’ll keep them on hand for awhile in case anyone in the area would like to plant some. Otherwise we’ll donate the seeds to Monarch Watch, an organization that maintains a free milkweed seed bank.
Sowing the Seeds: A Trial Run
Annette volunteered to sow milkweed seeds in a couple of her pastures at Malhana farm and I did the same in the meadows at Stonehurst. Now we wait until the spring to see what comes up.
I hope you’ll think the monarch’s mind-boggling, magical phenomenon is worth conserving! Please spread the word and join scientists, conservationists, teachers, road crews and nature lovers in planting milkweed in backyards, gardens, fields and highway medians. Need seeds? Let me know on Facebook, or email me (Peggy@VermontWoodsStudios.com).
To learn more, visit the Journey North website, founded by Elizabeth Howard of Norwich, VT or any of these organizations that are working hard to keep the Monarch alive:
Click on the National Geographic video above to learn about the amazing 2000 mile annual migration of the Monarch butterfly.
Vermonters over 10 years old will remember the colorful Monarch butterflies that used to grace our fields and backyards every summer and fall. But unfortunately, many young children have never even seen a Monarch. What a shame! I remember when Kendall and Riley were in grammar school we used to bring their entire class to a field across from the school playground and every child would find a Monarch caterpillar to watch as it went through metamorphosis (the inset above shows Kendall with a Monarch that has just emerged from it’s chrysalis and is waiting for it’s wings to dry before it’s first flight). That was only 10 years ago and now there’s nary a Monarch to be found in all of Vermont.
Could Vermont’s state butterfly be heading toward extinction?
Recently a legal petition was filed seeking Endangered Species Act protection for monarch butterflies. “Monarchs are in a deadly free fall. The 90 percent drop in the monarch’s population is a loss so staggering that in human-population terms it would be like losing every living person in the United States except those in Florida and Ohio” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity.
Milkweed: The Monarch’s Elixir of Life
“Fewer monarch butterflies are crossing North America to winter in Mexico, and the biggest culprit seems to be the disappearance of milkweed in the United States” according to Lindsay N Smith’s recent article in National Geographic. “Although illegal deforestation and severe weather have contributed to the decline, research… suggests that the overwhelming concern is U.S. farms’ large-scale use of herbicides that destroy milkweed.”
It’s hard to believe that milkweed has nearly disappeared from Vermont’s landscape in just a few short years. In the Green Mountain State, corn crops are everywhere and along the edges of those fields, we used to find lots of Monarch caterpillars feeding on milkweed. Not anymore. The Midwest has lost much of it’s milkweed too, as more land is being planted with (GMO) corn and soy to meet the world’s increasing demands for biofuels.
Monsanto and Round Up
The Monarch’s decline is being driven by the widespread use of genetically engineered crops that are made to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, a uniquely potent killer of milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s only food. The dramatic surge in Roundup use with Roundup Ready crops has virtually wiped out milkweed plants in corn and soybean fields.
Those of us who eat corn or soy (or any of the foods that contain them) can’t very well blame the farmers for milkweed’s eradication. So scientists, conservationists, and butterfly enthusiasts are encouraging road crews and property owners to grow the plant in their own yards, gardens and along roadsides. Are you up for that? If you need seeds, visit us at Stonehurst and we’ll give you as many as you’d like. You can also contact the Monarch Watch Seed Bank where you can donate or request seeds. Directions for planting milkweed seed can be found at LiveMonarch.com. Vermonters can support Elizabeth Howard and her Journey North organization by reporting their sightings online. Together and with a little help from Mother Nature we can bring back the Monarchs!
Let us know your thoughts on Facebook or in the comments section below.