I’ve been blogging about monarch butterflies practically from the moment this blog began. I’ve been growing milkweed, the only host plant for monarch caterpillars, in our yard for over a decade—first in Crozet, Virginia, and then here in San Diego after our move seven years ago. When you leave a comment on this blog, if you don’t happen to have a WordPress avatar set up, the default avatar is a picture of milkweed from my garden. I made a very dopey video, once, showing some of our butterfly plants, and was lucky enough to catch a monarch in the act of laying an egg on the underside of a leaf. We’ve been a family wrapped up in bees and butterflies for a very long time.
We had a fair number of caterpillars last year, enough to eat our five plants to the ground. But this year may be different.
This year, the giant migration that takes place in the mountains of Mexico has been, well, not exactly giant.
…for the first time in memory, the monarch butterflies didn’t come, at least not on the Day of the Dead. They began to straggle in a week later than usual, in record-low numbers. Last year’s low of 60 million now seems great compared with the fewer than three million that have shown up so far this year. Some experts fear that the spectacular migration could be near collapse.
The reasons aren’t a mystery:
A big part of it is the way the United States farms. As the price of corn has soared in recent years, driven by federal subsidies for biofuels, farmers have expanded their fields. That has meant plowing every scrap of earth that can grow a corn plant, including millions of acres of land once reserved in a federal program for conservation purposes.
Another major cause is farming with Roundup, a herbicide that kills virtually all plants except crops that are genetically modified to survive it.
As a result, millions of acres of native plants, especially milkweed, an important source of nectar for many species, and vital for monarch butterfly larvae, have been wiped out. One study showed that Iowa has lost almost 60 percent of its milkweed, and another found 90 percent was gone. “The agricultural landscape has been sterilized,” said Dr. Brower.
This article touches, too, on the dire plight of the honeybee, about which I’ve had much to say on this blog over the years.
I don’t often feel helpless. But with this, I do. What can I do beyond the small acts I’ve been making? Planting milkweed, singing the joys of bee-and-butterfly gardening, avoiding pesticides and herbicides even though that means I have a weedy garden. Keep on singing, I guess?
To quote Avril on the subject of Fairy, "It is difficult to invent anything for Fairy that does not already occur in nature". The description of Dr. Flora Fauna's bubblemobile travels (with fairy dog) alongside the migrating butterflies is in the Winter edition of The Illustrated Fairy Gazette. This morning I stepped out into a flurry of Monarch butterflies on the move.
They dallied with my Morning Glories before disappearing over the fence.
In threes and fours they hovered over green lawns and wayside flowers
pausing for only brief refreshment
before moving on, along the lakefront and across the creek
east to west, on their long migratory path. They will soon reach Point Pelee
where they gather in hundreds and thousands to feed on the milkweed plants before their astonishing long flight to the mountains of central Mexico, where t
My family is obsessed with monarchs butterflies. Every summer, we collect monarch eggs and raise them to adulthood, at which point we release them. We have a butterfly garden, where we can observe the monarchs and other butterflies in their natural habitat. My husband even wrote a book in which a monarch plays an important role.
This year, though, we've been asking ourselves, where are the monarchs? We haven't seen any monarchs, or many butterflies at all, in our butterfly garden. My husband and son went camping this weekend, and didn't see any butterflies there, either. So far this summer we've found a grand total of ONE monarch larva (caterpillar), which was almost ready to pupate when we brought it in to finish growing to adulthood. We've seen no monarch eggs. What's going on?
It's true that we usually see the largest number of monarchs here (Maryland) in August and September, but we usually can find some throughout the summer. This year, though, there's almost none to be found.
Apparently, we aren't the only ones asking the question. Monarch Watch recently posted an article on their blog about the very subject:
Monarch Watch: Where are the monarchs??
While the low numbers of monarchs isn't good, the article points out that there is some hope: because the butterfly population is low, parasites and predators that depend on the butterflies may dying or not reproducing, which will give the next generation of monarchs a better chance. Here's hoping!
Monarch photo copyright 2005 Sheila Ruth. All rights reserved.
- I'm back from the beach, and had a wonderful time and perfect weather the whole week. I love reading on the beach; there's not much that's more relaxing than lying in a beach chair, reading a book, listening to the surf, smelling sand and salt water and caramel corn and Thrashers' french fries, and occasionally taking a dip to cool off.
I had some great recommendations for beach reads, but I ended up buying two books that weren't on the list. (I look forward to reading some of your recommendations soon, though!) The first one was an adult science fiction book, Sojourn (Time Rovers, Book 1) by Jana G. Oliver, published by independent Canadian publisher Dragon Moon Press. I'm not going to write a full review, because my goal was to read something at the beach that I didn't feel like I had to review, but I will say that I enjoyed it. The characters were interesting, the plot exciting (time travel, Jack the Ripper, and shapeshifters!), and multiple subplots across two time periods were tied together well. The only thing I didn't like was some time-lag induced hallucinations experienced by the protagonist, which I found a little too bizarre for my taste. In spite of the shape shifting aspect, this is more science fiction than fantasy; when the shape shifting is finally explained late in the book, the explanation is more scientific than fantastical. The other book I read I won't mention by name, since I dont like to trash books publicly, especially when they weren't sent to me for review. But after 70 pages of mostly complicated, detailed backstory, I gave up on it.
I got back from vacation to find two packages with review copies waiting for me. One of them was The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, a book which I've been wanting to read since I've read so many great blog reviews of it, and which I requested. The other was the mass market paperback edition of a luscious looking adult fantasy called Acacia, by David Anthony Durham. I've never heard of Acacia, but it looks great and I'm looking forward to reading it. Why oh why couldn't these books have arrived before my vacation? I started on The Hunger Games almost immediately, and I'm now 2/3 of the way through it and do not want to stop reading to do anything else!
- A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the Brightspirit Relief Fund auction, a charitable auction in honor of a 10-year-old girl named Emmy Cherry, who died in the tornadoes in Arkansas earlier this year. I just received word that Rick Riordan has contributed some autographed books and a t-shirt to the auction! With items from superstars Erin Hunter and Rick Riordan,; as well as several other great authors, it looks like this could be a great auction! But we could still use more contributions. We'd love contributions of any auctionable items from anyone, but I'd especially love to see more contributions from authors and illustrators, since there's such a literary focus to this auction. Lynn, of Vintage Books in Russellville, Arkansas, the amazing woman who is my contact with the Brightspirit Relief Fund, also asked me to pass on that the fund is going to be set up as an endowment with a distribution fund under the Arkansas Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, which means that all donations will be tax deductible as charitable contributions.
- I also recently posted about the distressing lack of monarch butterflies this year. I'm happy to report that it looks like the butterflies are back, at least in Ruth land. We returned from our vacation to find a monarch butterfly fluttering around our garden, and a mess of monarch eggs on milkweed plants throughout the garden. We brought some of the eggs in, and already have a couple of tiny hatchlings!
- On School Library Journal, Bonnie Kunzel gives a great overview of the many excellent YA science fiction titles out there. As a long-time sf reader, I'm happy to see so many books in the genre being published for teens. Warning: a couple of the brief descriptions give spoilers.
Monarch butterfly photograph copyright 2008 Sheila Ruth. All rights reserved.
I recently had the wonderful opportunity to visit Shady Oak Butterfly Farm in Brooker, Florida. Edith Ellen Lee Smith is the owner of the farm along with her husband, children and grandchildren. They raise and supply butterflies for weddings, funerals, but mostly for live educational exhibits. They ship butterfly chrysalises all over the country. I went on a tour of the farm. They had a green
I am happy to announce that I will be participating in the 1st Annual Florida Monarch Festival in Earleton, Florida on Saturday September 24, 2011. I discovered the GreatHouse Butterfly Farm just a few months ago when I was doing a search on google for butterfly farms. It turns out that I am within 30 minutes of 2 wonderful butterfly farmers; Greathouse Butterfly Farm and Shady Oak Butterfly
By: Just One More Book!!
Blog: Just One More Book Children's Book Podcast
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, Life Skills
, Cassandras Angel
, childrens book
, Gina Otto
, self esteem
, Trudy Joost
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Author: Gina Otto
Illustrator: Trudy Joost
Published: 2001 Illumination Arts (on JOMB)
ISBN: 0935699201 Chapters.ca Amazon.com
Surreal illustrations and rhyming text invite us to rise above the judgements of others and stay true to our authentic selves.
, childrens book
, Gina Otto
, self esteem
, Trudy JoostCassandras Angel
, childrens book
, Gina Otto
, self esteem
, Trudy Joost
Anyone who knows me, knows how important the monarch butterflies have been in my life. My family started raising monarchs together as a family project six or seven years ago, and every summer we search for monarch eggs, nurture them through all the stages, and release the butterflies. These little creatures are a miracle, and we never get tired of watching them make their amazing transformations. Several years ago we started planting milkweed to encourage the monarchs to come around our house. My husband was inspired by our experiences with monarchs to write a book, The Dark Dreamweaver, which includes a monarch wizard. If it weren't for the monarchs, I probably wouldn't be here, blogging about children's books.
One amazing thing about the monarchs is their annual migration. Every year in the Fall, they migrate to Mexico, where they spend the winter. In the Spring they migrate northwards again. There are several generations between the northbound butterflies in the Spring and the southbound ones in the Fall, yet somehow those southbound butterflies know where to go, and they go to the same places year after year. Unfortunately, those places are under attack by loggers. Now, a new satellite image recently published shows that in spite of Mexico's creation of protected zones, illegal logging continues to devastate the monarch buttefly overwintering grounds.
Click here to view a pair of satellite images of Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in central Mexico. The first image was taken in 2004, and the second one was taken on February 23, 2008. The image clearly shows large areas that have been clear cut inside the protected zone, where logging has been illegal by presidental decree since 2000.
If this deforestation continues, the monarch migration could be disrupted. If that happens, this beautiful and inspiring creature could disappear from the earth.
Butterfly image © copyright 2005 Sheila Ruth; all rights reserved.