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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Where Are The Monarchs?

Sometimes it is not so much what you see but what you don't see. Last year we only saw a few Monarch Butterflies. Maybe only one or two and so far this year we have not seen a single one. I have read several articles that contend that herbicides are destroying the vital habitat of the monarch. Having not seen any so far this year it may not be so much theory as fact.

Spraying herbicides has a couple problems. One is that the over spray or wind drift from the spray sometimes kills weeds not intended. Two is that herbicides are non discriminatory. Those deep voiced ads on television for products like Round Up are appealing but how many read or take the time to read the directions on the spray. It comes ready mixed and in its own sprayer so why bother to stop and read anything; it will kill weeds and that is the goal: "kill weeds".

The monarch relies on the milk weed to survive. The eggs are laid on that specific weeds broad leaves. Round Up and other similar herbicides kill broad leaf weeds and that includes milkweed. Why don't the monarchs go to other weeds to lay eggs you may ask. Because it is the components of the milkweed that gives them the energy and strength to survive and reproduce and those components are not found in other weeds. So as we spray tons of weed killer on weeds we have slowly destroyed the habitat of the monarch to the point that we have not seen a single one here this year.

Monarch butterflies are nothing short of a miracle. Not only are they the only insect that migrates but their transformation from caterpillar to butterfly is nothing short of remarkable. When the caterpillar spins the chrysalis around itself it emits an enzyme that reduces it to a liquid inside the cocoon. The various parts of the butterfly anatomy then come back together to form the butterfly one part at a time. When the butterfly has developed within the cocoon and emerges it hangs from the chrysalis for several hours until its body pumps fluid into the wings to make them strong. The metamorphism from caterpillar to butterfly still puzzles science. They understand the process but not how it happens consistently. That is why we should do all we can to preserve the monarch butterfly. If we could duplicate the process the caterpillar goes through to a butterfly perhaps it could assist us in ways not yet understood. Not to mention that it is a beautiful butterfly that still mystifies us. While we know the process we don't know specifically how that process occurs. If we could duplicate the process who knows where that could take us.

Regretfully we have seen fewer and fewer monarchs each year and now this year we have not seen a single one. Maybe that is because people are so intent on "killing" weeds that they have not considered the monarch.  I hope I have not previously seen my last monarch.  

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