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MONARCH BUTTERFLY + OTHER POLLINATOR ONE-SHEET

6 Aug

BY KRISTEN MOORE

We’ve been able to gather quite a bit of information about pollinators, including Monarchs in the last few years. From raising rescued Monarch caterpillars, observing chrysalis and releasing butterflies we’ve moved to learning about pending legislations and how to help more! Please continue reading to learn basic facts about Monarch butterflies and other pollinators that may surprise you.

The Monarch butterfly seen above was experiencing the first few moments outside of it’s chrysalis. Raising butterflies is a wondrous activity, definitely good for mental health!

Worrying about butterflies and other pollinators is not good for our health, unless it drives us to action. There are many actions we can take to help other species, including pollinators.

New York State just stood up for pollinators by requiring special permits for use of neonicitinoids, nicotine based insecticides; as of January 2023. According to Dan Winter, President of the American Beekeeping Federation; New York is leading the nation with this protection. He is now looking with hope to the EPA to make the same stance on the federal level.

Molly Jacobson, native bee guru from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry; developed an amazing pollinator garden webinar that you can utilize in planning your own native pollinator garden. Find Molly’s webinar here.

Between Molly Jacobson and Jim Norwalk of Butterfly Effect Plants in Waterloo, I’ve become quite the native plant nanny! Through Moore Dirty Boots we created/improved four native plant gardens in the Finger Lakes. Plants were welcomed by Earth Eden Farm in North Rose, the Waterloo Public Library, Lodi’s Community Garden and on the east side of Cayuga Lake. We’ve been involved in various conversations about pollinator pathways and various certifications. It is rejuvenating to think of these projects continuing to grow-pun intended!

Here are a few basic facts about Monarch butterflies courtesy of the National Wildlife Federation:

Diet:  Monarchs, like all butterflies, change their diet as they develop. During the caterpillar stage, they live exclusively on milkweed plants. Milkweeds are wildflowers in the genus Asclepias. Milkweeds contain glycoside toxins that are harmless to the monarch but poisonous to its predators. Monarch caterpillars feed on all the different parts of milkweed plants and store up the toxins in their body. The toxins remain in their system even after metamorphosis, thereby making adult monarchs poisonous as well.

Adult monarchs feed on nectar from a wide range of flowers, including milkweeds. 

Typical Lifespan:  Most monarch butterflies do not live more than a few weeks. There are about 3 to 5 generations born each spring and summer and most of the offspring do not live beyond 5 weeks. The lone exception is the last generation born at the end of the summer.

The last generation of each year is the over-wintering generation that must make the journey back to Mexico. Rather than breeding immediately, the over-wintering monarchs fly back to Mexico and stay there until the following spring. In the early spring, they fly north to the southern United States and breed. Over-wintering monarch butterflies can live upwards of 8 months.   

Our dedication to butterflies and pollinators led me to host a POLLINATOR PARTY! this year. All our favorite bee and native plant people and companies were there, including IDEA Collective. We had honey tastings, honey candy, cool educational information, native bees on display and being discovered. Children arriving dressed as bees and butterflies received a special prize-a kit from IDEA Collective! We were so glad to have such a turnout, even though rain was pouring down. We gave away signs the Girl Scouts had made to help support the NYS Pollinator Protection Plan requiring residents and highway departments to work together to protect pollinators beside roadways. These signs have prompted many smiles and it has been really fun to give them away. Two signs left currently!

In addition to sparing milkweed from mowers, one can help butterflies and other pollinators by limiting use of chemicals personally. Sharing your love of pollinators via visual art, social media, writing and more can make an incredible impact! Naturalist and author, Maria Sibylla Merian (4/26/1647-1/13/1717), opened the eyes of the world when she wrote in Latin about the metamorphosis of butterflies.

Two incredible places to view Monarch butterflies in a good year are the Seneca Meadows Wetlands Preserve and the Sterling Nature Center! When we held Butterfly Yoga and other Butterfly Walks in August and September at 1712 Black Brook Road in Seneca Falls, many of us were impressed with numerous butterflies and pollinator habitat. McIntyre Bluffs on the western edge of the Sterling Nature Center has often been a breathtaking stage for Monarch butterflies feeding in the goldenrod in early September.

Lake shore spaces with milkweed are critical for the migrating Monarch butterfly as it travels south from Canada. I’m looking forward to sharing a favorite book about the Monarch’s migration and perhaps a Monarch puzzle from IDEA Collective along the lake shore at the height of Monarch season. I do hope we see more of these amazing butterflies this year. Heat and water shortages affect these small creatures too. A small dish of fresh water can be just what many species need, even butterflies.

Many thanks to everyone who think about pollinators and join in to help however you can!

Kristen

PS A PDF of NYS 2020 Pollinator Protection Plan below: https://agriculture.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2021/02/pollinatorreport.pdf