Anyone who has seen these beautiful, large, black and orange butterflies floating in the air or sipping nectar from a flower will probably agree that it would be a sad day to no longer see these gorgeous beings. And yet that sad day may come unless enough of us help.
Monarchs are declining in numbers because of pesticides used on lawns and gardens and because of habitat loss. We can avoid using pesticides on our own land and encourage laws which ban the most toxic pesticides.
Habitat is lost both in the U.S., including C.N.Y., and in Mexico, where the monarchs spend the winter. It’s important to encourage government’s at the local, state and federal levels to preserve natural areas. One of the ways government can do this is to provide incentives for residential and commercial development in areas which already have infrastructure (water lines, sewer lines, roads, schools, etc.) and impose disincentives for development in relatively natural areas.
When development does occur in natural areas, we can support housing which is clustered so that a significant portion of the land is left natural for a home for wild animals and for a peaceful place for residents to enjoy. An example of this is Eco-Village in Ithaca.
Even relatively small natural areas can help, such as, maintaining the sides of roads in such a way that some wild plants and wildflowers are allowed to live rather than being mowed down. Our own gardens can be a haven for monarchs. Like all butterflies, monarchs start as eggs, then become caterpillars and finally emerge from their chrysalis as adult butterflies. The monarch caterpillar can eat only milkweeds. No milkweeds, no monarchs! So we can plant milkweed in our garden.
The generic botanical name for milkweed is asclepias. There are many varieties, including the common milkweed with fragrant pink-purple clusters of flowers and butterfly weed with small bright orange blossoms. I have both kinds in my garden. The common milkweed introduced itself from seeds blown on the wind. You may be able to find milkweed at a nursery. Or you can acquire some through the Habitat Gardening in C.N.Y. organization. Their webpage provides beautiful photos and a wealth of information about monarchs, other butterflies and other garden creatures and native plants. Go to www.ourhabitatgarden.org or contact Janet Allen, Habitat Gardening in C.N.Y., 401 Parsons Dr., Syracuse, N.Y.13219.
Linda A. DeStefano is President of People for Animal Rights, P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse, N.Y. 13215-0358, (315)488-PURR (7877), LDESTEFANO3@twcny.rr.com , http://www.peopleforanimalrightsofcny.org/