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Friday, September 23, 2016

Monarch Butterflies Need Our Help

Monarch butterflies present an amazing story of species survival as they migrate each year. An adult will live only a few weeks in the summer. However, migrating butterflies have a winter-long lifespan of six-to-nine months.

The female lays eggs on milkweed plants where the eggs hatch in approximately four days. The complete metamorphosis from egg to adult takes about a month.

Many nature enthusiasts know that the Monarch butterfly is endangered. Over the past 20 years they have suffered a 90 percent decline in numbers attributable mainly to habitat loss. This loss can be reversed if and when local and state governments, as well as individuals and conservation organizations, work together to rebuild the milkweed habitat.

Pheasants Forever and Quails Forever are working toward this goal, with the appointment of Jason Jenkins as the new monarch and pollinator coordinator for the state of Missouri.
 
According to their press release, they are working with 30+ partners in the Missourians for Monarchs Collaborative, to establish this first-of-its-kind position. Missourians for Monarchs include conservation and agricultural organizations as well as state and federal agencies. This statewide initiative seeks to create and maintain 19,000 acres of pollinator habitat annually for the next 20 years.

"For conservationists, few issues are of as great a concern as that of declining pollinator populations,” said Jason Jenkins, monarch and pollinator coordinator for the Missourians for Monarchs Collaborative. “These insects serve a vital role in our food production systems and sustain our native plant communities. The consequences of losing these species are disastrous. I’m looking forward to becoming an ambassador and advocate for the monarch while we increase and sustain habitat for all pollinators in Missouri."

Spending winters along the Texas coast has made me aware of the population decline. The butterflies travel through on their migratory journey from the northern United States to Mexico. I know many Texas gardeners plant milkweed to help feed the monarchs on their 3,000-mile journey.
We can all help restore the monarch population by providing milkweed and its needed flowering native grassland habitat, to enable the butterfly to complete its life cycle and amazing migration. By conserving and connecting habitat for monarchs, we will benefit other plants and animals, including critical insect and avian pollinators.

Even though I have not one gardening bone in my body, I appreciate those who do. As we all wander the country this fall, we should be on the lookout for the migrating monarchs and plan to do our part in their survival.

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