MILKWEED – SUSTANTIVO
An important way to help the monarch butterfly is to first identify the host plant. Plant Identification has two names: Common and Latin. The birth of the monarch butterfly in the Chatbook frequently refers to common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). The italicized Latin name first describes the Genus that is capitalized followed by the species in lower case. Native plants are perennial. Once planted they will start their own colony thus ensuring the future of the plant species.
In spring, when milkweed is just emerging from the soil, the monarch returns to North America from Mexico. The butterflies will stop along the way in Texas where they will mate. Shortly after mating, the parents will die but not before the mother butterfly lays her eggs. Butterflies with more than one host plant have a better chance of survival than a monarch with only one host plant. The female butterfly deposits her eggs on milkweed and it is the only plant that young caterpillars or larvae (LAR-VEE) eat.
Common milkweed grows in prairies, along roadsides, in agricultural areas and fields, at the edge of forests and even in one’s own backyard. Milkweed originates in the Americas meaning it is a native plant. There are approximately 100 species of milkweed in North America alone. It is important to let milkweed grow for the monarch butterfly. Different generations of the monarch butterfly migrate to and from Mexico, North America and Canada each year, an estimated distance of 2,000 miles. Migrating north from Mexico, generations of female butterflies’ will need milkweed all along the migration trail. What is so special about milkweed?
Milkweed has several advantages. The plant has a long taproot which looks similar to a carrot taproot. Taproots can go deep into the earth to reach water; native plants do not need watering once they are established. Depth of plant roots is important in times of drought when there is little or no water. People around the world are starting to learn about Global Warming which can cause drought and severe storms.
Milkweed also contains cardiac glycoside a chemical that is toxic. Monarch caterpillars have the unique ability to eat the toxic leaves without any ill effect. Eating milkweed in its early life stage helps enable the adult butterfly to have a chemical defense against possible predators such as birds. Often birds will throw up after eating a monarch. Captured bluejays were researched and videotaped as they ate milkweed and afterwards by Anu Uno Chellappau. On the other hand, my friend Anna Martineau Merritt has seen a bird eating a monarch without getting sick. Robert Pyle attests to this too. He watched as orioles ate monarchs at the Mexican Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in El Rosario (55).
Sadly, I saw a monarch in my own garden that was less than 24 hours old. In the late afternoon it was resting peaceably on a bright pink zinnia flower and by early evening the new born butterfly had been attacked and killed by a predator. The wings were left behind but the body was gone. At times birds will eat the body which has nutritious fats. Perhaps a bird ate the body and not the wings where most of the toxins are stored. The butterfly also has bright colors that warn predators it is not good to eat.
I will be publishing the Chatbook over the next few weeks. Photos will be added later when I return to Shell Lake. I had first thought to publish this as a book but after talking with two readers, I have decided to publish the Monarch Butterfly Coloring Book separately. The text with photos will be published on Insectamonarca’s Blog.
A few years ago, the author Mary Ellen Ryall witnessed and photographed the birth of a monarch butterfly in her gardens in Minong, Wisconsin. The photographs are a witness to this mysterious event and depict the monarch butterfly life cycle and the relationship of pollinators to native plants.
The Xerces Society has determined that the Monarch’s migration as “an endangered biological phenomenon.” In NOVA’s film, “The Incredible Journey of the Butterflies,” Lincoln Brower, Distinguished Service Professor of Zoology Emeritus, University of Florida, states that no one knows what that threshold is. He has observed the Mexican Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary over many years.
Brower has seen a shrinking habitat because of illegal logging. Monarch butterflies in Mexico have notably declined compared to when the wintering monarchs were first discovered in the Michoacan Mountains in 1974. The beloved international butterfly faces many threats throughout its migration and it is imperative to save the migration.
Within the pages, butterfly terms are highlighted and Spanish words for the monarch’s life cycle are included in titled pages. Do you have a butterfly garden? Would you like to grow milkweed for the monarch butterfly?
At the end of the Monarch Butterfly Chat Book, you will find a glossary of butterfly terms; works consulted; where to buy milkweed seed; explore other butterfly organizations; and books and Web site links for further butterfly studies.
I won’t post the end of the book or photos until I have the whole project published on the Blog first.
Come to Shell Lake, Wisconsin, USA, in the summer of 2011 and visit the Native Restored Remnant Tallgrass Prairie that is dedicated as a Monarch Butterfly Habitat. Tour with Mary Ellen Ryall and learn about differnt native host and nectar plants, shrubs, trees, wild edibles and butterflies.
Learn more about Happy Tonics at www.happytonics.org
Read the article at Wisconsin Trail at http://www.wisconsintrails.com/content/176.php
Today it warmed; I headed out on my snowshoes this afternoon. Sunshine on my face was so warm and inviting. Recently a General Dollar store opened in Minong. I was looking for the wild asparagus stand but I didn’t find it. Surely I thought the dead heads would be sticking up through the snow. It looks like the builders may have plowed them under while bulldozing the site. I will go back there in early spring to see if perhaps the deep roots survived and new shoots hopefully will brighten my day with nature’s wild edibles.
I did see some trees that look like they may be cherry. I hadn’t discovered them before when I trekked through this land. I will explore more closely this spring. I love where I live. I saw lots of deer tracks and at least one fox trail on the back property. There were some pretty big foot prints on the front property and I think it may have been a wolf. The field that I normally walk out to had no deer tracks. This is unusual because there are usually deer tracks out there. It was a blessing to be out and about on snowshoes all by myself. I absolutely love to be alone in nature. It is a walking meditation to me and I am revived when I am outside with wind, sun and snow.