Thursday, March 27, 2014

Would You Plant Milkweed for Monarchs?

Monarch on Milkweed
Who in Southern Ontario hasn't marveled at the beauty of Monarch Butterfly? They were so common over the years, I would hardly bother to photograph them. But, this last summer was dramatically different... Monarchs were absent (or dramatically reduced to occasional singles). The butterfly community took notice. Even Point Pelee didn't do its Annual Monarch Count this year because, there were none to count?!?! (I think even when counts are low, they should still do a count... Wouldn't that be the scientific thing to do?) 

I hope we as a people can work to keep these gorgeous butterflies alive by ... if nothing else, raising awareness & perhaps requesting political action. I have already contacted the Essex County Field Naturalists about considering contacting our local municipalities and ask what their herbicide spraying activities are or better yet, could milkweed be planted along roadsides, hydro and rail corridors etc?

I might even get seeds myself and possibly attempt to sprout some seeds indoors to get them ready to transplant outside. Might be a fun activity to get my son Matthew involved with. 

According to the David Suzuki link listed below, the number of wintering Monarch Butterflies in Mexico has been dropping at alarming rates. The Suzuki source states some threats and remedies below:

Threats include:
  • Loss of native plants like milkweed 
  • Severe weather events 
  • Continued logging in Mexican forests 
Remedies include:
  • Increasing milkweed and native, pollinator-friendly species throughout the U.S. and Canada 
  • Reducing herbicide and pesticide use 
  • Stronger protection of monarch wintering grounds (Suzuki)

The Government of Ontario has declared Milkweed to be a noxious weed. They state: "Common milkweed can be a very difficult weed to control in many field crops thereby causing significant reductions in crop yield and quality. This can have a considerable negative impact to a grower's net economic return. In the last 10 years, new herbicide technologies have greatly improved the control of common milkweed in field crops. However control of common milkweed around field borders is essential as it minimizes seed spread into fields and therefore reduces the reliance on herbicides for "in field" control." (

But sadly, when milkweed is destroyed with amazing new "herbicide technologies" , species that depend on it as its host plant are also eradicated.

If we as a human species, in our relentless quest for growth, development, vanity and improved agricultural yield... if we let this little insect drop away from our summer and fall outdoor experience, ... deny ourselves and our kids from seeing this delightful mix of black, white and oranges... we are truly poorer as a people.

Good butterfly watching!

More Reading:


  1. I gathered some seed in the fall and scattered it on the snow about a month ago. The milkweed needs bare soil to germinate, so I'll be waiting to see if we get some in the summer.

    1. Furry, thanks for the feedback. I think more people need to become more aware of our native plants and continue to let them thrive.

  2. Hi Dwayne.....a great post pleading on behalf of Monarchs. You might be interested to know that the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture which is in charge of the Noxious Weed list has agreed to take milkweed off the list. Check out this link:


    1. Allen, thanks for the update. That is a little positive news I am happy to be updated on. Excellent new Blog Allen and thanks for reading nerdy for birdy!

  3. We have some in our yard and have been talking to our neighbors about not destroying the plants in their yard. I see them more on our Butterfly plant than the milkweed though.

  4. You'll have a higher success rate if you transfer some milkweed roots than if you try to grow it from seed. It has a very low germination rate.

    @Angie while migrating monarchs love to feed on butterfly bush nectar, they don't lay eggs on it as I'm pretty sure you know but perhaps some other readers might not know.

    My parents in law always kept a foundation planting of milkweed at the front of their house. They staked it and removed the seed pods when they ripened so that it wouldn't irritate the neighbours. Unfortunately, even though they used to raise several caterpillars each year (just watching them) in the 70s-90s, they have had almost no eggs laid in the 2010s. Not a good sign. Last year was downright spooky.

    1. I like the idea of cutting off the seed pods so as to not upset the neighbors. Thanks Bet!

  5. Hi Dwayne,
    Thanks for the post. We have raised monarchs for the past several years, though last year we didn't find one single egg on our milkweed. We did see a few monarch's on the butterfly bush, though not in the numbers we have seen in years past. Your son would love raising a monarch. It is very easy, and all you really need is enough milkweed to feed them. The chrysalis is one of the most beautiful thing in the natural world! Our kids love raising them, and what a great science lessons. We also tag them. I think we just need to spread awareness to others and petition the government to use less pesticide on EVERYTHING!



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