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Equal time for the Butterflies. . or It's all about the milkweed

Ok - so you know how once you look something up on the internet Google has your number and just won't let it rest? After researching the bee friendly thing. . yep, the Butterflies demanded equal time. I am good with that. So now Dirty Girls Flower Farm is a registered Monarch Way Station! What fun! Why is this important? Other than seeing a big brightly colored butterfly hovering over a beautiful flower? the butterflies are major pollinators. Same with Birds, Bees, wasps, bats (yuk), & beetles.

Somewhere between 75% and 95% of all flowering plants on the earth need help with pollination – they need pollinators. Pollinators provide pollination services to over 180,000 different plant species and more than 1200 crops. That means that 1 out of every three bites of food you eat is there because of pollinators. If we want to talk dollars and cents, pollinators add 217 billion dollars to the global economy and honey bees alone are responsible for between 1.2 and 5.4 billion dollars in agricultural productivity in the United States. In addition to the food that we eat, pollinators support healthy ecosystems that clean the air, stabilize soils, protect from severe weather, and support other wildlife.

Each fall, hundreds of millions of monarch butterflies migrate from the United States and Canada to mountains in central Mexico where they wait out the winter until conditions favor a return flight in the spring. The monarch migration is truly one of the world's greatest natural wonders yet it is threatened by habitat loss at overwintering grounds in Mexico and throughout breeding areas in the United States and Canada.

Monarch Waystations are places that provide resources necessary for monarchs to produce successive generations and sustain their migration. Without milkweeds throughout their spring and summer breeding areas in North America, monarchs would not be able to produce the successive generations that culminate in the migration each fall. Similarly, without nectar from flowers these fall migratory monarch butterflies would be unable to make their long journey to overwintering grounds in Mexico. The need for host plants for larvae and energy sources for adults applies to all monarch and butterfly populations around the world.

Milkweeds and nectar sources are declining due to development and the widespread use of herbicides in croplands, pastures and roadsides. Because 90% of all milkweed/monarch habitats occur within the agricultural landscape, farm practices have the potential to strongly influence monarch populations.

Development (of subdivisions, factories, shopping centers, etc.) in the U.S. is consuming habitats for monarchs and other wildlife at a rate of 6,000 acres (9.4 square miles) a day - that's 2.2 million acres each year. This is roughly equivalent to losing an area of habitat the size of the state of Illinois (the 24th largest U.S. state) every sixteen years!

modified to resist the non-selective systemic herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) allows growers to spray fields with this herbicide instead of tilling to control weeds. Milkweeds survive tilling but not the repeated use of glyphosate. This habitat loss is substantial since these croplands represent a significant portion of the summer breeding area for monarchs.

The use of herbicides and frequent mowing along roadsides has converted much of this habitat to grassy areas that lack shelter and food for wildlife. Although some states have started to increase the diversity of plantings (including milkweeds) along roadsides, these programs are small. Unfortunately, the remaining milkweed habitats in pastures, hayfields, edges of forests, grasslands, native prairies, and urban areas are not sufficient to sustain the large monarch butterfly populations seen in the 1990s.

So we need to create a habit for them. Fortunately, for a flower farm, it's in the bag. They look for Black eyed Susans, Cone Flower, Lupine, Milkweed, Zinnia, Dahlias,etc. So food for thought. . . Above facts from - photos by Jerry from Dirty Girls.


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