The Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) has to be one of the most amazing insects on the entire planet. Scientists know of no other insect that tackles a migration as long as that of the Monarch Butterfly and the most remarkable aspect of the migration is that it is not learned from a previous generation: adults do not teach it to their offspring within the same species. The Monarch Butterfly life cycle is very unique in that, the first, second and third generation typically lives for only four to six weeks. It is the fourth generation that makes the Monarch Butterfly life cycle unique. The fourth generation, often called the super generation, flies over 2,500 miles from southern Canada to the mountains of central Mexico. It spends the winter in Mexico and once spring has arrived these same Monarchs begin their migration back north towards the United States where they will mate, lay eggs on milkweed plants and die, after living about 8 months!
For decades, scientists have been fascinated with the extent and range of the Monarch Butterfly migration. But now, researchers are running out of time. Since the late 1990s, the population numbers and the overall winter acreage that Monarch Butterflies have inhabited in central Mexico have been in decline. During the winter of 2013-2014 scientists found the smallest number of overwintering monarchs. Researchers have determined many reasons for this population loss, including the decline of the common milkweed plant (Asclepias syriaca L.). Milkweed is essential to the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly because adult females exclusively lay their eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves. The young caterpillars eat the leaves, ingesting cardenolides (toxic juices within the milkweed) without harming themselves, but making the Monarch distasteful to potential predators.
So what can we do to save the decline of the Monarch Butterfly population? Join forces with the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative (OPHI). The OPHI is a partnership between ODNR, ODA, Div of Wildlife, Monarch Joint Venture, OSU, Pheasants Forever and many others to educate citizens and create beneficial pollinator habitat. We are asking citizens to help us collect milkweed pods which will be sent to the state nursery where they will be separated, dried and used for future planting to help increase pollinator plantings around the state.
Tips for seed pod collection:
Other things you can do to help the Monarch Butterfly (and all our pollinators):
Friday, March 2, 2018
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