Saving Monarch Butterflies on the Cheap

Saving Monarch Butterflies on the Cheap

A Sweet Sacrifice

It takes me a while to realize I can buy food in a supermarket but the monarch butterflies can't. They totally rely on milkweed to raise their young. I can quit some vegetable planting to save the space for native milkweed.

It seems I lose some production space but eventually, I win. I gain respect from my family by giving up my veggie to help the endangered insects. More importantly, I instill a sense of stewardship in their hearts. Hopefully, they will carry on and pass the same responsibility along. The point is we as a people need to take care of the creatures that do not have a voice.

No Need to Spend a Cent

If you want to help the poor monarchs but don’t want to spend a fortune on seeds, you may start on the cheap by collecting your own seeds. Common milkweed is not difficult to find in central and east Canada. The decorative seed pods shown in this blog's image are a perfect identifier for this plant. Milkweed seeds are available to be collected from mid-October to early November in Southern Ontario. Goldenrod is abundant in Ontario too. Goldenrod flowers are excellent nectar sources for Monarchs in the fall. Goldenrod seeds are ready from mid-November. Make sure to follow the 10% rule when collecting native seeds. That is, only take away 10% of the existing stock and leave the 90% in the wild.

If you miss the season and still want to help in spring, you may rescue some oak seedlings from public lawns. Native oaks can host more than 500 species of native insects according to the American Ecologist Douglas Tallamy. Most red oaks set roots in a lawn will eventually be mown down. I have rescued two but both died after the transplant. Now I have the third baby oak sitting in the snow. Hopefully, this guy will live. A native tree or shrub can provide butterflies shelter from the wind and heat. 

I don’t suggest you rescue baby maples. Most maple seedlings found in the public areas are Norway maples, which are invasive in Canada.

Seeds only, No Clones

If it is financially possible, you may buy milkweed seeds from local vendors. Do not waste your money buying milkweed plants from big-box stores. Now the big-box stores realize milkweed is such a cash cow that they mass-produce milkweed plants by tissue culture, which uses a single plant to clone thousands of genetically identical plants. Each seed carries a unique set of genetic compositions, whereas a clone has identical genetic information from the mother plant. Tissue culture does not help strengthen the milkweed gene pool. On the contrary, it reduces the biodiversity of the local ecology.

Like many, I work hard for a living. Yet, I have food on the table and a roof over my head. The monarchs are in a dire situation. Their food sources are demolishing, their habitats are shrinking, and they don’t even have air conditioning for the rising temperature. With a little sacrifice, everyone can do something for the monarchs. Collect or buy some milkweed seeds, plant a  milkweed patch, or grow a native shrub for the butterflies to spend the night. Together, let us save the monarchs.

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