We need to remember that butterflies and other insects, along with the birds whom they sustain, are important and irreplaceable co-residents of our watershed, i.e, our “neighborhood.”
Reedy Creek Coalition members will be planting native milkweed seed in the near future. We hope to have plants to share and would love to see milkweed coming up all over the watershed!
Why do we lay such a heavy emphasis on the value of using native plants in our landscapes and gardens?
In an earlier post, we talked about the importance of “host” plants for the larvae of butterflies and other insects. Monarch caterpillars, in particular, have an absolute dependence on milkweed as their food source. Host plants for our native insects most often must also be native.
The plight of the Monarch is made only too clear in an article from the University of Minnesota website entitled “Milkweed Loss Hurts Monarchs.” (http://www1.umn.edu/news/features/2012/UR_CONTENT_378473.html)
This article states that researchers have determined that a decade-long decline in Monarch populations is tied to the loss of milkweed from the corn and soybean flelds of the Midwest. Estimates are that between 1999 and 2010 Monarch egg production in the Midwest dropped by 81 percent. The loss of Monarchs parallels the rise in the use of glyphosate herbicides, which kill milkweed and other crop weeds while leaving intact crops engineered to tolerate the herbicides [“roundup ready” corn or soy].
The article goes on to say, “Now that we have a better handle on the causes for the decline in monarch numbers, the areas outside agricultural fields are more important than they used to be… it underlies the importance of putting milkweed in garden plantings, prairies and roadsides.”
Of great concern to us is that the decline in Monarch numbers may be the “tip of the iceberg.” How many other plant species and their obligate insect hosts are also being decimated? And these other species don’t have the “appeal” of Monarchs. We need to think of the whole ecosystem. There are hundreds of other butterflies and insects that have a similar reliance on a particular native plant. So while working to provide habitat for the spectacular Monarchs, please don’t forget about those “drab” moths and other less spectacular insects and their larvae on whom we (and baby birds!) depend so much, often without realizing it. It should be noted (and this is mentioned in the University of Minnesota article quoted above) that milkweed also serves as a “nectar” food source to many different kinds of adult pollinators.
Can you help with GOING NATIVE? (Note that there are some milkweed species that are not native and should not be planted here.)
We will keep you POSTED when we have our native milkweed and other plants ready to share.