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Save the Monarch Butterfly campaign a success!

The monarch butterfly population is on pace to see a rise for the first time in 10 years By Brenlee Coates

lation. After steadily decreasing over the past 10 years, reaching an all-time low last year, the director of Monarch Watch says the overwintering popula- tion is on track to at least double last year’s numbers. “At a minimum, I expect the popu-


lation to be twice as large as last year or roughly 1.4 hectares, but it could be twice that size,” the Monarch Watch director wrote in an update on the organization’s website. The reasons behind the popula-

tion’s dramatic decline were many, but experts agree the use of pesticides and consequential loss of habitat is the most devastating one. Pesticide use in big agriculture,

as with environmental factors, are major causes that threaten to eradicate monarch butterflies, but the garden- ing community rallied together this summer to do its part to help conserve the monarch butterfly population. Manitoba, Ontario and Alberta

Home and Gardener Living launched a campaign to “Save the Monarch Butter- fly” and distributed hundreds of compli- mentary milkweed seeds to gardeners eager to plant it at their homes. Milkweed is the only plant that nour-

ishes monarch caterpillars before they undergo their transformation – there- fore, it’s the only plant upon which the mama monarchs will lay their eggs. (Monarch butterflies themselves will continue to feed on milkweed flowers, but they enjoy any high nectar blossom, especially those of wildflowers.) Without a prosperous trail of milk-

weed along the butterflies’ migratory route as well as in their home bases for the summer, monarchs cannot propa- gate nor store enough fat to make it to their next destination. One reason why the caterpillars are

so loyal to the plant is that it makes them toxic to most predators, protect- ing them from being widely consumed. Regardless, out of the 300 to 400 eggs laid by monarch mothers throughout their lives, only about 10 per cent reach adulthood due to elements like adverse weather, natural predators and para- sites, and the ongoing threat of pesti- cides.

Planting milkweed is the easiest way to help the Monarch butterflies. Needless

to say these little critters

need all the help they can get – and the help you gave this past summer meant a lot! Our summer was riddled with trade shows and events where we came out and asked people to join the cause – and you supported us in droves! We even had people reaching out

to us on our Facebook page (Save the Monarch Butterfly) and calling our office wondering how they could get their hands on the seeds. We couldn’t thank you enough for

incorporating a new species into your gardens, and entrusting our author- ity on milkweed. Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is invasive, but the variety we were giving away, Asclepias tuberosa, is not. At a launch for one of our new

publications at Pegasus, Smart Biz, we were able to raise $400 to help a local

community centre plan an impressive butterfly garden for their trail project launching next spring. The butterfly garden at Whyte Ridge

Community Centre in Winnipeg will be the highlight on an interpretive trail – restoring a previous attempt to feature a monarch butterfly waystation that was overcome by weeds. We are so proud to call this garden-

ing season a success for the campaign, and we couldn’t have done it without all of you lovely folk! We will be back next year with more seeds and more events and ideas to help contribute to this important conservation effort. Please like Save the Monarch Butterfly

on Facebook, follow your local Home and Gardener Living on Facebook and Twitter, and continue along this journey with us to revive the monarch butterfly population, one garden at a time. P

Beautiful Gardens 2014 • 37

t’s too early to declare a victory – but preliminary numbers are promising for the monarch butterfly popu-

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