Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Why Monarchs and Milkweed?

Monarch butterflies and many pollinator species are facing sharp population declines across North America. This is in large part due to loss of habitat and the increased use of harmful chemicals. Scientists predict that this spring will be the smallest migration since monitoring started in 1993. As Monarchs are a beloved species across North and Central America, the drastic population decline is of concern to many people from individual citizens to the highest level of government. At a recent NAFTA meeting, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, US President Barak Obama, and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, the Monarch was declared an emblem that unites the three countries and that needs to be conserved. Over 100 scientists petitioned NAFTA to create Monarch corridors of milkweed along roadsides as well as toxin-free buffer zones.
Monarch populations are declining for several reasons. This includes the loss of habitat in both their wintering grounds in Mexico, and their breeding or summer grounds across North America. Critically important has been the loss of milkweed plants which are the only plants the caterpillars can eat, and a vital part of the Monarch lifecycle. Milkweed is in decline partly due to the increased use of the chemical neonicotinoid in GMO crops which eliminates all “weeds” from agricultural fields. Traditionally milkweed was plentiful but the widespread use of these harmful and efficient chemicals is rapidly making milkweed disappear.
We think Hamilton can help! By planting monarch and pollinator-friendly plants in our public parks and around our homes, we can create important habitat refuges for this majestic species. At the same time we’ll be creating attractive and low-maintenance gardens!
Thanks to funding support from the Hamilton Community Foundation’s Edith H. Turner Fund, the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club (HNC) and Environment Hamilton (EH) are partnering to create Monarch & pollinator habitat across Hamilton. We know that many people want to help Monarchs and have made packets of native seeds which can be used to create new Monarch habitats. With all of us working together we can make Hamilton a refuge for Monarch butterflies!
Over the next few months we’ll be working with schools, community groups, neighbourhood associations and the City to hold workshops about how to create Monarch-friendly gardens. We’ll be using native plants which are suited to the area and which need little maintenance once established. Many of these plants can fit within existing gardens and will attract many butterflies which will add even more colour to gardens!