Saving the Monarch butterfly
The Monarch butterfly depends on the milkweed for reproduction. With ample rains and warm sunny days, the prairie at Roshara is flourishing. Wildflowers are everywhere and milkweeds are abundant.
Along with all the milkweeds in the prairie, the Blazing Star wildflower (Liatris) is also outdoing itself this year. Never have I seen such a display of this beautiful plant. And guess what? Monarch butterflies feed on the nectar of Blazing Star wildflower.
With several acres of milkweeds and Blazing Star wildflowers, we have, dozens, maybe hundreds of Monarchs flitting about, enjoying the sunshine and feeding on their favorite wildflower. And preparing for their winter migration.
On a sunny day, I stood on the prairie and just watched the Monarchs. They would feed on a Blazing Star for a time, fly a few feet, and then feed on another.
Monarch butterflies spend their winters in Mexico. Hard to believe, but these rather fragile butterflies fly many hundreds of miles to escape Wisconsin winters. Why don’t they remain in Mexico, one might ask? Well, they can’t survive the freezing temperatures of the north, but, alas, the plants they need for reproduction don’t grow in Mexico, so the spring generation of Monarchs flies north where the plants are plentiful.
One way we can help Monarchs survive is to plant some milkweeds—a plant that, when I was a kid, was considered a weed and we cultivated and hoed it out of our garden, the potato patch, the cucumber patch, wherever they grew. Now, we should let them grow.
THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Plant some milkweed seeds, save a Monarch butterfly.
Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to www.jerryapps.com