Monarchs in California

Posted by Christine, November 25, 2014

Monarch butterflies winter in California. They are a tourist attraction along the coast.  One of the major problems confronting them is loss of the milkweed that is their only food. Milkweed is being eliminated by herbicide spraying on crops. It’s gotten worse — that is, more milkweed has been eliminated — as farms become more monocultures of GMO corn and soybeans. One of the advantages of GMO crops is that they are RoundUp resistant, they can withstand being sprayed with RoundUp, glyphosate, the most popular weed killer. While some weeds are able to evolve to become RoundUp resistant too, milkweed has not. Monarchs have to search for food. Loss of milkweed has been a major factor in their decline.

I’ve heard that Monarchs will find milkweed, even small plots of it. When I bought some at the local hardware store, the plants already had some caterpillars on them! One became a chrysalis and hatched into a butterfly. I was enchanted.

I transplanted the milkweed into two planters and a section of garden. Within weeks, more caterpillars hatched. I hesitated to move the caterpillars on one pot of milkweeds, until they had eaten every leaf. They are doing fine on the more abundant plants in the garden. They hatch as tiny inch worms but grow fast as they munch away at the leaves.

There are currently six caterpillars on my tiny scrap of milkweed, a dozen plants. These intrepid butterflies somehow found me. IMG_6959

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