Ed’s Corner

What’s up?

Certainly not monarchs,
haven’t seen one all summer.
The black and orange Lepidoptera
might be gone, what a bummer!

I ask around:
‘Have you seen any monarchs yet?’
‘No I have not!
Now that you mention it.’

Now is their migration time
and every fall we’d see them flying
heading southward, day by day.
What’s the matter, are they dying?

I still search green milkweed patches,
Where I’ve found monarchs by the score.
But looking closely I’m dismayed
to find no traces, as before.

They used to flit about the gardens,
king and queenly colors flashing.
This year’s hues were certainly decent,
But missed those bright and royal fashions.

A world lacking monarchs
is missing much, we agree.
I feel that I have lost a friend.
Do you too feel like me?

Monarch butterfly in the New Jersey Botanical Gardens, Fall 2012

Yes, this has been the monarch-less year. Reasons proposed include more use of pesticides and habitat destruction both in their overwintering grounds in Mexico (they do migrate) as well as here, in their summer home. Milkweed is the plant that adult monarchs (the butterflies) lay their eggs on, the caterpillars eat it, and it’s the plant to which monarchs attach their chrysalises. Less milkweed means less monarchs.

I have talked to various gardeners and outdoor people and have gone online to see what others are reporting. And in most cases people are reporting not seeing ‘only a few’, but NONE! Zero. Not one. This feels a little freaky and worrisome.

Oh, I know there is a lot we can worry about – what is happening (or rather not happening) in Washington, the economy, wars and skirmishes around the world, bombings, road rage and motorcycle gangs, whatever educational reforms are now in vogue, etc., etc.

So who has time or energy to even think about a butterfly? I do. Maybe you, too. Watching monarchs heading southward in the fall has always connected me with this butterfly’s unimaginably long migratory journey, as well as with the mystery and rhythm of nature as a whole.

While the rest of America worries about ‘real life’ I will remember the monarch, and I will hope that this article is merely an off-year observation and not a eulogy.

1 reply
  1. Jan McFeeley
    Jan McFeeley says:

    Ed and Daniel –
    Be of good cheer!
    There are monarchs migrating through Cape May – certainly not the usual numbers but a steady stream.
    In my own backyard near Philadelphia my milkweed garden had only 2 egg layers that I witnessed this summer. I decided to leave the egg leaves on the plants (I usually bring some inside a net habitat to observe and be amazed) because there were so few compared to other years. This is the first year in 10 that I did not have caterpillars/chrysalis for my students to observe and release.

    The Cape May researchers were not as concerned as we are and feel there will be a rebound.
    They encourage flower gardens that the butterflies can feed on during migration….
    I am very concerned about the pesticides used on the genetically modified crops that kill milkweed in the midwest.

    So, I spread milkweed seeds where I can and keep my flowering bushes happy. I
    hope we can write next year at this time that the monarchs are migrating!

    Love to you!



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