August 21st, 2014
We‘re all familiar with the beautiful monarch butterfly. It’s golden orange and black wings make it one of the most well known species in the butterfly world.
The harsh reality is that monarchs are vanishing, and fast. This year alone we’ve seen an estimated 90% drop in the number of monarchs in eastern North America, a trend that we must reverse if we want future generations to enjoy these beautiful winged creatures.
Why is there such a sharp decline in monarchs? It all comes down to milkweed. Monarch’s lives depend on milkweed for both food and breeding and in recent years, there has been less and less of it. This is especially true in the United States where milkweed is killed en masse with herbicides in agricultural areas.
To flourish, monarchs need a “milkweed corridor” which extends from their northern range in Ontario, all the way along their migration route through Texas and into Mexico. You can do your part to help the monarchs by planting milkweed in your backyard, which helps to complete the northern end of the corridor.
Locally, GreenUP is helping in the efforts to save the monarchs through a couple of different means. Through our work at GreenUP Ecology Park, we’ve sold hundreds of milkweed plants, which are now growing through the Kawarthas. We’ve also begun an innovative project of raising our own monarch butterflies, which will be tagged and released very soon.
Caterpillars were gathered from milkweed in both Peterborough and Northumberland Counties by GreenUP staff and brought to the office where they were put on display in the GreenUP Store for the general public to see the amazing transformation process. Currently the caterpillars are in the chrysalis stage and will be emerging soon.
Once they’re free of their chrysalis, we’ll tag and release them so they can begin their long migration to Mexico. The tags identify where the butterflies originated, and provides contact info for anyone who finds one to report it to the Monarch Watch, which tracks their movement.
Video: One of our monarch caterpillars shedding it’s skin (exoskeleton) and entering into the first stages of becoming a chrysalis.