Presented by Anne James. Article by Barbara Bobo
“C’est Quoi? " A puffy jacket made of milkweed down? It’s true, “C’est vrai!” A Quebec company, Quartz, has teamed with 100 farmers in Quebec and six in Vermont to sell parkas stuffed with milkweed down in 275 stores in 25 countries. “Incroyable”. But a great idea — and a terrific idea for saving the monarch butterflies host plant. We all catch our breath when we see a big beautiful monarch float by. Recently threatened along with many of our pollinators, monarchs can be raised in your own backyard or in your own home. All it takes, according to Anne James, who has raised over 1,OOO at her Monarch way station in Lion’s Head, is milkweed. It does not take a lot of expensive equipment, no special license, they do not need shots, nor do they need to go for walks. But there is work involved if you become attracted to butterfly husbandry: Finding the tiny eggs on the host plant, cutting the milkweed plants back to stimulate the growth of the young leaves to feed the caterpillars and collecting leaves and green pods to rear them. Rearing in captivity provides protection from predators such as stink bugs, red ants, larger caterpillars and earwigs to name a few. You may also want to grow milkweed in your flower beds — they are stunning plants with fragrant lilac blooms. At the Sept. meeting of the Bruce Peninsula Environment Group, Anne took us through a colourful slide presentation and explained her simple equipment through the 30-day evolution from egg, to caterpillar, to the magical chrysalis stage — the birth of the butterfly — to the climax of the release of fully fledged butterflies. She did not “nectar” coat the details of the day-to-day care. Why do this at all, why not let nature raise them? Well, it is simple. The decline of the butterflies and bees as well, has its roots in agricultural practices and urbanization. Pesticides, which quash the wild plants needed to propagate, milkweed in the monarch’s case, and loss of habitat have decreased the population and hampered its return at the end of the year to Michoacán-Mexico, about two hours west of Mexico City. One of our audience members had visited to see the miraculous sight of hundreds of millions of the butterflies clumped on giant pines, obliterating the foliage. Perhaps a bucket list item for those who travel to Mexico? Why save the monarchs, or any of our pollinators for that matter? When we save the wild things, plant or animal, we save ourselves. Whether a food source or a soul saving source, we need them. We are a part of the ecosystem as well. None of us can really know the importance of every bit of nature’s puzzle, but we can enjoy some of the more beautiful aspects of nature and the monarch certainly reigns supreme!
Copyright (c) Bruce Peninsula Environment Group, 2018