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Monarch Migration, They Need Our Help.
March 31, 2014

(This past Wednesday.)

"For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land."

The Song of Songs, 2:11,12.

The Late and Great 'Ernie Harwell' would read this passage from Solomon on the first day of every baseball season.

Before anything else, he would welcome spring, and baseball with the word of God.

March 31st, the first Detroit Tigers baseball game of the season.


Rumors have it, we might hit 60 degrees today and then dive into the 30's, near 40 degrees, for the rest of the week.

We have however, enjoyed a few more sunny days recently.

Even when temperatures are below freezing, snow still melts.

And what a difference in peoples attitudes when the sun is shinning.

Our prayers go out to the family and friends of the Washington mudslide.

Days continue to grow longer.

Another sign of spring, my first sighting of the dreaded Woodchuck (groundhog).

Let the wars begin.

First of a new month, means it is also time to give your feeders a good spring cleaning after a long winter for many of us.

Time for a good scrubbing, sanitizing, and rinse.

Fewer birds are visiting the feeders, and more bird songs, drums and other calls are heard throughout.

I mentioned last week spotting a lone Sandhill crane, this week I have a picture of another (or maybe the same) crane doing lazy circles.

How rude of nature, to allow the birds to fly all this way north only to find frozen waterways still and snowpack.

Also pictured are some American Goldfinches in their quilted pattern as they are changing over to their more familiar colors. Reports from the Great Lakes region are showing a much larger than normal die off of several species of ducks.

These are ducks that depend on diving for food.

Ducks like Canvasbacks, Scaups, Mergansers, and Ring-necked ducks.

With bodies of water being frozen solid for such a long period of time, the waterfowl died of starvation.

The winter has taken its toll on many animals this year.

Generally, there are years like this for 'Nature' to thin out the weak and sickly.

Populations of wildlife may dwindle for a season or two, but build back up to a healthy and sustainable population.

The circle of life, where one species thrives at the loss or expense of another.

Nature's balancing act, when conditions are what they were meant to be.

When people interfere too much, the delicate balance is thrown way off.

This week, I will touch a bit on that balance and the Monarch Butterflies


Spring brings bird migrations.

Hundreds of species of birds on the move northward.

Species that probably grab the most headlines are hummingbirds and swallows.

Still, a vital, yet less noticed migration north is taking place as we speak.

The Migration North of the Monarch Butterflies (Danaus plexippus).

The over wintering numbers from Mexico don't look good.

33 million Butterflies overwintered in an area of a mere .67 hectares (roughly an 1.5 acres).

Down from 1.19 hectares and 60 million butterflies the year before.

While monarchs will never enjoy the record numbers of 1 billion butterflies in the mid 1960's

Even the mid 1990s showed numbers in excess of 300 million.

The latest count of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico suggests the insect’s North American migratory population has hit a new low and may be at risk of disappearing altogether.

The dire forecast, announced Wednesday, is based on the amount of Mexican woodland occupied by the orange-and-black butterfly during its annual hibernation.

In December, that space shrank to a mere two-thirds of a hectare, an area not much larger than a football field and 44 per cent smaller than that inhabited by monarchs during the previous winter.

While monarchs as a species are widespread around the globe, it’s the astonishing migration of the eastern North American population that is at risk

Lose the Monarch butterflies of North America, and we may lose the most wonderful and astonishing migration, possibly in the world.

In an average year, 350 million monarch butterflies are seen wintering in Mexico.

The winter of 2013-2013 there were only about 60 million – a difference of more than 80 per cent, according to an official count by the World Wildlife Fund and the Mexican government.

The winter of 2014-2014, counts were as low as 33 million.

Those numbers – the lowest in 20 years of recorded history – have experts wondering if, and how, monarchs can bounce back from this significant decline in their population.

Mid to late March and the mass exodus begins.

A mating frenzy was underway this week.

(Mating Monarchs.)

The monarchs are in reproductive condition now, so the biological clock is ticking.

Butterflies that made the trek to Mexico or California (to some degree, northern Florida), over wintered and are now mature adults.

Their energy is now directed toward reproduction.

They'll race northward to produce the next generation.

Most of these Monarchs will reach the end of their lives by early May.

The next 4-6 weeks will be critical.

The size of the first spring generation will largely be determined by the quality of breeding habitat in Texas, and neighboring states to a lesser extent.

Reproduction is concentrated in this region in early spring because the vegetation is most advanced and temperatures are favorable.

If the weather is too cold and rainy.

If tender milkweed shoots are slow to break ground.

Much of a new generation could be lost.

This dictates the butterfly's population for the rest of the year, and for years to come.

Yes, weather and other natural causes will dictate the Monarch's populations.

In the past 15 or so years, there has been extreme weather in the wintering grounds of Mexico.

Snow, ice and extreme cold temperatures have cut the population down.

Extreme drought conditions in recent years.

These are what we call natural causes or disasters.

God, or Nature's way of getting things in order, strengthening a gene pool, and so on.

Only the strong survive, so to speak.

The big concern is human activity.

When I was a boy back in the 1960's, I would work the family garden (1.5 acres).

My dad taught, and we listened.

Pull weeds and kill bugs.

If we weren't using toxic chemicals on insects, we were hand picking.

Hoeing and pulling weeds was good for you, no weed killer was used.

Still, when a weed was spotted, you pulled it up.

Milkweeds were common and still are quite common around here.

Still, if you saw a hideous looking caterpillar, of any type or size, on anything, you killed it.

I'm embarrassed to say how many monarchs and various swallowtail larvae I smashed as a boy.

Take that to all the gardens spread across rural America.

That doesn't scratch the surface of what takes place today.

Urban sprawl is a small blip on the butterfly radar.

Chemical warfare is on the other hand...........

We've covered the topics before, GMO's and Monsanto.

Monsanto also provides 'Roundup' herbicide.

(Picture credit to NWF.)

Bayer, and other companies also offer toxins and herbicides that kill weeds.

Insecticides that randomly kill any insect (including butterflies and larvae).

While we are becoming more aware of the plight of the monarch, we need to make it known to everyone.

Our government officials.

Farming friends and neighbors.

Okay, so you spray the fields and crops, leave a hedge row of milkweed and other plants.

Don't cut down ditches and fields that offer vital food.

As for you and me..................

Get out of that mode of everything must go.

Plant milkweed for the monarchs.

If you want to attract other species of butterflies that are regional, do some research and plant host plants for them to lay eggs on

(I'm always trying to get you to do research and learn.)

Common Butterflies of North America is a good start.

We are stewards, lets go.

While monarch populations are strong in other parts of the world (Australia and South Pacific as well as south America), there is little if any migration.

If we as people don't act now, we may very well lose one of 'Nature's' greatest migrations.

Our North American Monarch Butterflies, and the very unique migration north and south, from creatures that have never taken the route before.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

You can learn more on the Monarch Butterfly and Fun Monarch Facts here.

"When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it. "

Henry Ford

Nice quote, here is what the bible has to say.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

Deuteronomy 31:6

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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