If We Plant It, They Will Come (Austin Chronicle, August 2014)

If We Plant It, They Will Come (Austin Chronicle, August 2014)

By Jessi Cape, Austin Chronicle

Monarch butterflies have a simple request. 

In the six months since we first covered the monarch butterfly’s plight in flight, co-owner Flint Beard of Lone Star Nursery reports an "overwhelming" response, but says there is still work to be done. With monarch migration and fall planting time upon us, the time for action is now.

Lone Star Nursery is partnering again with the Texas Farmers Market to host free milkweed awareness programs this weekend at the Cedar Park and Mueller markets. Information and kids activities will be available alongside milkweed seedlings and seeds for purchase.

Beard says, “Folks came in from miles around, on a mission to plant milkweed! There were hundreds of people coming in droves to the markets. And in the months following, customers have come to us with germination success stories, positive milkweed growth progress reports, and increasing monarch and bee presence updates.”

Monarchs are ecological canaries in the coal mine; their very existence is crucial to the pollination of food crops. To reiterate, Austin is a direct stop on the endangered butterflies’ flight path to their roosting home in Mexico, where the great pollinating beauties are expected to arrive around Dia De Los Muertos, November 1. The drastically dwindling numbers are widely reported and scientifically substantiated. The upshot? According to multiple sources, including monarchwatch.org, individual people are the key to success. For once, a solution is actually in our hands.

Monarch caterpillars have a single food source – milkweed – and its significant decline is attributed to many factors, including drought, urban sprawl, and neonicotinoid sprays (read: bug spray for the lawn). Milkweed plants are also essential breeding grounds for our Texas state insect. By creating an hospitable environment – simply adding a few plants to the garden – the population of winged travelers is afforded the habitat and sustenance they require for survival. As a bonus, planting high-yielding nectar producers nearby gives the adult insects – including our beloved bees – the fuel required for long journeys.

For more information, see the Feed the Butterflies event page here.

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