Monday, June 11, 2018

The monarch project

Article from the Times Colonist recently:
Golf courses take swing at saving monarch butterflies
by Susan Lazaruk of the Vancouver Sun.
Article found in the June 9th edition of The Times Colonist

VANCOUVER — Numbers of the majestic monarch butterfly have been in a free fall, but a plan hatched with the help of golf courses across North America, including one on Vancouver Island, is designed to bring them flying back.

The number of the summer visitors to flower gardens and wildflower fields has plummeted 90 per cent over the past 20 years, according to Audubon International.
“And it’s worse in the western population, where you are, where there’s been a 95 per cent drop in numbers,” said Marcus Gray of Audubon International.

In Canada, the monarch is listed as threatened on the Canadian government’s species at risk registry.

“The situation is not good,” he said.

The species at risk website says the eastern migratory group moves between an area east of the Rockies and the Oyamel Forest of central Mexico, where “declines of greater than 50 per cent have occurred over the past decade.” The western migratory group from southern B.C. overwinters along coastal California.

To reverse the downward trend, Audubon, along with the Environmental Defense Fund, in January launched Monarchs in the Rough, which provides free seeds to grow milkweed — where monarchs lay their eggs and on which caterpillars feed — and nectar-producing wildflowers to golf courses that volunteer to participate.

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler and the Mill Bay area’s Arbutus Ridge golf courses are among the 30 courses across Canada and the 250 across the U.S. that have committed to growing the flowers on a half hectare of land on their courses.

Chateau Whistler has signed up and is awaiting its shipment of seeds, said the hotel’s head gardener, Jennifer O’Rourke.

She said Monarchs in the Rough fits in with the hotel’s plan to increase the number of pollinating plants to attract bees, hummingbirds and butterflies, she said. The resort’s bee hives produce 635 kilograms of honey a year for use in its restaurants.

“We don’t want to have a negative effect on the area,” said O’Rourke. “We occupy a large chunk of land on the side of the mountain and we want to keep it as natural and attractive as it can be.”

The planting program has been so successful that Audubon International upped its original goal of 100 courses to 500 after they immediately had 250 join, said Gray.

It is hoped the wildflower meadows will attract more monarchs and other butterflies and bees and birds, he said.

The program is open to any golf course in Canada, the U.S. or Mexico.

Monarchs are a critical element in the North American ecosystem, pollinating a number of wild flowers and serving as food for birds and other insects.

Gray said Monarchs in the Rough can also serve to educate golfers and other visitors to the courses about the importance of planting flowers and keeping pesticide use down.

“Anybody that has property can plant flowers that will attract butterflies,” he said.

Even with the 90 to 95 per cent drop over the last two decades, there are good and bad years for monarch populations.

This year will likely be a particularly bad year because of extreme weather last fall, according to scientists.

Kinds of Milkweed:

 A photo from July 22, 2017 of the plant I received from Dave Dube a few years ago.  It is the showy milkweed, Asclepias Speciosa.  It grew in a tall pot for a few years. Autumn of 2017 I renovated a flower bed in the front garden (by the water meter) and transplanted this one and at least another one that I had in a pot.  The showy 'Davies" plant from Dave has survived the transplant.  I do not see any others in that renovated bed.  I also renovated a flower bed in the back garden and transplanted more milkweed plants that I had started.  I do not see any of them up as yet.  I had 2 swamp milkweed plants from the Cannor nursery.  In the 'cutting garden' at the back, I have a butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)growing and blooming in orange/yellow. 
Another photo from July 2017 of one of the plants grown from seed from Dave Dube.  This was transplanted to one of the renovated beds.  I will have to see if it survived the transplant.  At the moment I have 2 smaller black pots with milkweed starts.  They are the Soul mate swamp milkweed (asclepias incarnate), pink from Strictly Medicinal Seeds nursery in Oregon.   I shall try to get them transplanted later in the Autumn, this year.

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