Friday, July 26, 2013

Seney Michigan Monarchs

There is plenty of marsh, as well as dry land habitat at Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Michigan's UP.  I was particularly pleased to note the blooming Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca along the embankment. 

Common Milkweed in bloom attracts many insects.

This is the host plant of the Monarch butterfly.  The large pink-to-lavender flowers attract many pollinators and butterflies as a source for nectar, but the milky toxins in the plant stems protect the plant from most "grazers.'  

The Monarch caterpillar is one of the very few species of lepidoptera that can withstand milkweed's toxic load.  In fact, Monarchs are able to retain the chemical compound into their adult (butterfly) stage, rendering them unpalatable to birds and other predators. 

An adult male Monarch photographed at Seney NWR in July 2013.
The Monarch butterfly is indeed king of the butterfly world.  An individual monarch may migrate 1,500 up to 2,000 miles in its short life.  It is but one part of the migratory stream of butterflies which migrate north- as far as Canada, only to return to turn and fly back to Mexico to spend the winter.  It takes five full generations to make the round-trip.

The Monarch population has suffered devastating losses the last several winters.  Between horrific weather conditions and illegal logging operations, their wintering grounds in Mexico have provided little sanctuary. In fact, monarch migration is now officially listed as a threatened phenomenon by the IUCN. 

 Most butterfly enthusiasts  have barely noted a movement of monarchs in Ohio this year.  Fortunately, I saw at least 6 or 7 Monarchs at Seney and have great hopes they will provide offspring for the fall journey south.

Consider planting some milkweed now to help them on their return trip.  Join us at the Mid-West Native Plant Conference in Dayton this weekend, and you find loads of native plant vendors with the Milkweeds you want to grow.  I'll hope to meet you at my presentation on Lawns and Lawn Alternatives. 

You can make you back-yard more exciting than a alien-grass lawn; make it a wildlife habitat!

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