Monarch

More Of Them This Year

The population of Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) has been dwindling down to a point of concern that they may be heading toward extinction.  With a small patch of garden, we try our best to help them by letting the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) grow.  It’s the only plant that Monarch caterpillars eat.

Common Milkweed flowers
A male Monarch soaking up morning sunlight in early July

I didn’t grow the first milkweed.  It came to our garden around three or four years ago.  The seeds are airborne but I had not seen any milkweed around our area then, but I may have overlooked it.  Though it falls in the ‘weed’ category, I let the first one grow anyway.  Then I fell in love with its fragrance.  The first lone milkweed has grown into a large patch now and we try to keep them confined to one spot.  They can be pretty invasive; every spring I have to pull out the ones that sprouted in the middle of the lawn or flower plots.  We also let them grow in the spots that are out of the way so as not to over-crowd the other plants.

Aside from enjoying its fragrant and beautiful flowers, it’s also host to a variety of insects both friend and foe of the garden.  This year we are seeing more Monarchs so we have started to monitor them more closely.  It has taken us a few years to be registered on their homing GPS as one of their destinations.  I guess they decided that our garden is a reliable food source for their caterpillars and young adults so they lay eggs.  We were so happy and excited close to the point of obsession.  We checked on them everyday!

Laying egg under the Milkweed leaf
A fresh laid egg
A day or two old caterpillar, just the same size as a grain of rice
Munching on Milkweed leaf
A little bit older, pale green color bands changed to bright yellow
A full grown caterpillar

Only a few of them survived.  I don’t know who might eat them.  Most likely wasps have taken them for the future youngsters in their burrows.  But a few are better than none.  Hopefully the ones that were born in our garden survive the long flight to Sierra Madre, Mexico, and the winter to tell the next generation where our garden is.

A female Monarch enjoy nectar from Maximilion sunflower

View more Monarch photos at Amazingseasons

Happy New Year

In Anticipation Of A Better Year

Happy New Year 2017

I would like to present you with the image of a warmer day in our garden, the Zephirine Drouhin rose.  A climbing fragrant rose that blooms continuously throughout the season.  One of many things I anticipate again in June.

Zephirine Drouhin is never a disappointment. It blooms heavily at first then continues to bloom here and there until autumn.
Zephirine Drouhin is never a disappointment. It blooms heavily at first then continues to bloom here and there until autumn.

About this ‘anticipation’, I got the idea from a free bookmark I received from the American Horticultural Society of which I am a member.  There is a quote from W.E Johns on the back “One of the most delightful things about gardening is the anticipation it provides.”  It couldn’t be more true for me.

We all hope for better.  We hope our garden will fare better than last year, our beehives thrive, our little friends who stay put survive the winter and our migrating friends come back to visit.  We anticipate for better so we won’t lose hope.

Here are some of the anticipated events:

We anticipate that more Monarch butterflies will be back next year as we have plenty of Milkweed and late summer flowers for them to feed on before they travel back south for their winter hibernation. We hope that children will get to see them in real life, not just on screen, for many more years to come.
We anticipate that more Monarch butterflies will be back next year as we have plenty of Milkweed and late summer flowers for them to feed on before they travel back south for their winter hibernation. We hope that children will get to see them in real life, not just on screen, for many more years to come.
We anticipate the next generation of this Honeybee on Goldenrod will be stronger and more resilient so they can help us humans survive.
We anticipate the next generation of this Honeybee on Goldenrod will be stronger and more resilient so they can help us humans survive.
We anticipate that this summer resident- Baltimore Oriole will bring his children, that were born here, back for a red carpet treatment of fresh oranges and organic jelly.
We anticipate that this summer resident- Baltimore Oriole will bring his children, that were born here, back for a red carpet treatment of fresh oranges and organic jelly.
We anticipate that the Eastern Bluebird which has stayed put with us in the last couple of winters, will bring up more kids, enjoy their communal bath and help rid us of pests. We hope they will continue being our state bird for eons to come since their population has increased in recent years.
We anticipate that the Eastern Bluebird which has stayed put with us in the last couple of winters, will bring up more kids, enjoy their communal bath and help rid us of pests. We hope they will continue being our state bird for eons to come since their population has increased in recent years.

These are just a few of our anticipations for this year.  We have been doing our best to give back to nature since she gives us so much joy.  It’s our sanctuary amidst this divided world.

As for the world outside our garden, we hope that there are  solutions for all conflicts so we stop being so divided and ruining ourselves in the process.  We dream of a magic pill that will wipe out hate, bigotry, and selfishness from so many people’s brains, that the world can be a better place to live and a wonderful place to pass on to the next generation.   Let’s hope that some of these dreams will come true this year.  We cannot lose hope, it’s the only thing that keeps us going.  Even if that hope is just a dim light at the end of the tunnel.

Whatever your anticipations and dreams are, we wish they came true for you.  

 

 

 

The Disappearing Monarchs

Soon To Be Extinct

An article in the Opinion Page of The New York Times last Sunday didn’t make me feel good about the direction of our environment.  The article ‘The Year the Monarch Didn’t Appear‘ by Jim Robbins mentioned that the population of the Monarch butterfly has dwindled so much  that not many of them have made it back to Mexico, their winter home, this year.  I have seen only two Monarchs in my garden this summer where I used to see dozens of them.  The second one I saw was very late in the season when the weather was getting a little cold and it seemed confused.  I knew it wouldn’t make it down south.

It’s not just the Monarch population that has been diminishing, the bees both native and honeybees have also disappearing.  The disappearance of these pollinators has direct effect on our food supply, not to mention our next generation may not have a chance to see some of them in real life.  It will be just like some of us having only learned about certain species from books and documentaries.

I am neither an environmental nor political activist.  I’m just an ordinary hobbyist gardener who enjoys wildlife and likes co-existing with nature.  My little garden may not be much compare to acres and acres of conventional farmland.  However, it is an oasis for many life forms searching for safe food and shelter in the middle of factory-farmland and chemically loaded gardens desert.  I started gardening organically since I moved here and converted a lot of the lawn to flower and vegetable gardens.  I’ve seen an increase in the variety and population of birds and insects in the garden.   It is satisfying to see some birds stay with us during winter and some stop by during their migration, and to see a new variety appear each season.

No matter where you are on this planet, you can help increase the survival of these pollinators.  A little bit of help is better than nothing.  Keeping the earth healthy by having a balanced, non-toxic environment is crucial to our survival not just theirs.

No one can say it better than Emerson..”…to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I first moved here
When I first moved here
'After'
‘After’
Years ago, from the other corner
Years ago, from the other corner
Same corner afterward
Same corner afterward

Of course, it’s not finished yet.  But true gardens never are.

Disappearing Monarch

Heading Toward Extinction?

An article in The New York Times yesterday entitled Monarch Migration Plunges To Lowest Level in Decades by Michael Wines leaves me saddened and disappointed.  Though the article mentioned that it’s “due mostly to extreme weather and a change in farming practices in North America.”  It doesn’t matter whether it is caused by the weather or farming practice, we can help slow the pace of extinction.  With the extreme weather, we may not be able to do much as individuals aside from trying not to leave too large a daily carbon footprint.  Maybe the planet will warm up a little bit more slowly.  But do we really need to get rid of every single Milkweed in America’s conventional farming area?  Do we need to genetically modify our vegetables to have resistance to herbicide so we can keep spraying chemical over the whole area to get rid of the weeds?

It takes the Monarch (Danaus plexippus) two generations for their trip from Mexico to the Northern US and Canada, and one generation to fly back.  They need a place to lay their eggs and food for their caterpillars; that’s where the Milkweed (Asclepias syiaca) comes in.  Monarch caterpillars feed mainly on Milkweed.  Without it, there will not be much chance for the next generation.  Please let some Milkweed grow in your garden so we can actually show future generations how beautiful the Monarch butterfly is and how great their annual migration is.  Years from now, I hope that we will still be able to see actual Monarch butterflies in gardens and meadows, not just in old nature documentaries and where a narrator says  ‘….Once upon a time there were plenty of orange and black butterflies called Monarchs…’

Monarch on an Echinacea bloom
Monarch on an Echinacea bloom
Taking nectar
Taking nectar
Monarch caterpillar on a stem of Milkweed we let grow in our garden
Monarch caterpillar on a stem of Milkweed we let grow in our garden

Monarch

A Little Accomplishment

We have always had Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) in the garden.  It’s an official sign of summer when we see them in our garden.  They travel up from Mexico, their winter gathering place, every year.  It takes them two generations for their trip up north, but only one generation flying back.

I’ve learned that their population is in decline since we humans have been eliminating their caterpillar favorite food source – Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).  Industrial farming indiscriminatingly kills all the weeds along their flight path.  I know Milkweed is very invasive and poisonous if you eat it raw.  The milky sap that oozes out of a cut on one will make you itch if it get on your skin.  However, I’m not ready to see the Monarch butterflies pushed toward extinction.

I don’t know how the first Milkweed got in to our garden, but I had tried to get rid of them too.  Not much of a success; they keep coming up every spring wherever the roots have spread.  Once I learned that the well being of the Monarch population depends on this weed, I changed to digging them up and replanting them along our property.  This year is the third year I have been doing that.

The Monarchs have shown their appreciation for the first time this summer.  They mate in the garden.  I guess they have learned that they can depend on our garden for the survival of their young.  Since I saw them mating, I’ve been checking the Milkweed every couple of days.  Finally, they made me really happy today.  I found two caterpillars with bright yellow, white and black stripes munching on the Milkweed.  Just the sight of them made today a perfect day!

Monarch taking nectar from an Echinacea flower.
They decided to start their next generation in our garden.
Monarch caterpillar on a Milkweed stem.