Monarch butterflies are now an endangered species. That’s according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The group made its announcement on July 21. The IUCN says climate change is a primary reason for the decline. People can help monarch butterflies by planting milkweed. Monarchs breed only where milkweed is growing. Female monarchs lay eggs on it, and monarch caterpillars eat it. The plant is poisonous to many animals, but not to monarchs. Its toxins build up in the butterfly’s body, making the monarch deadly to predators. According to TIME for Kids | Saving Monarchs, Jaime Joyce with reporting from AP.
There are many reasons why milkweed has suddenly declined at an alarming rate and therefore the Monarch Butterfly with it. You can read the above article online for more information. In our town, Charlton, we have seen all of the farms but one disappear into housing lots, industrial facilities, etc. One very large farm is currently being turned into one of the biggest Amazon warehouses in the country!
Here on our farm we strive to work with nature, to help all species survive and thrive. It’s very important to us. We want to improve our farm soil, grasses, woods and wildlife while also creating a healthier planet. Sometimes that can be very difficult. The Monarch Butterfly is a perfect example of this. Milkweed is a poisonous plant to sheep, cows, goats, llamas, alpacas and horses. Milkweed can take over a hay field in just one season once it flowers and releases all the seeds. This is a huge problem for farmers that are growing hay to feed livestock and horses. We have really struggled with this. We have had fields just completely taken over by milkweed, many times. We can’t allow our sheep and lambs to graze these fields, we can’t make hay to feed our sheep and horses, or to sell to any of our hay customers to feed their animals. Basically we would have to stop farming if we allow the milkweed to grow in our hayfields. That being said, we still have a significant amount of milkweed growing on our farm. We have pastures and field edges with it, a few stray plants in our hay fields are always present. We provide clover, alfalfa and other flowers for butterflies throughout our farm to feed on as well as the hummingbirds and bees.
One solution to this problem is for people to grow some milkweed in their yards. They can not only enjoy having the Monarch Butterfly they can help to save them. All the conservation areas, land trusts, public parks, recreational areas, school yards, businesses with grassy areas, etc. can play a role in growing some milkweed. By providing milkweed in so many diverse locations there would be more resiliency when one location fails.
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