​​​​​​​Gardening for monarch butterflies, honeybees

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Counts of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico has decreased 53% since last year (2019) and is well below the threshold at which government scientists predict the monarch migrations could collapse.

With scientists predicting monarchs occupying just 15 acres being the extinction threshold for to survival in North America, the World Wildlife Fund in Mexico found this year’s count of overwintering monarchs occupying just 7 acres.

In 2014 conservationists led by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to protect the butterfly under the Endangered Species Act.

The decision on Endangered Species Protection will not be issued until December of this year.

This latest population decreases are attributable to poor weather conditions during the spring and fall migrations. Monarch have also lost an estimated 165 million acres of breeding habitat in the U.S. to herbicide spraying and development.

Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed, but the plant has been devastated by increase herbicides spraying in conjunction with corn and soybean crops that have been genetically engineered to tolerate direct spraying with herbicides. In addition to glyphosate, monarchs are threatened by other insecticides that are toxic to young caterpillars.

Monarchs are not the only insect that is experiencing a rapid decline in population. Scientists are researching the potential consequences of the rapid decline on the honeybee population in the U.S. and how to lessen its effects before it causes dire problems for crop management and production.

Honeybees are essential for the pollination of flowers, fruits, and vegetables.According to National Geographic, over the past 15 years, bee colonies have been disappearing in what is known as the “colony collapse disorder.” The publication also reported some regions seeing losses of up to 90%.

Data shows bee populations dwindling more and more each year. This past winter represents the highest level of seasonal losses reported since the survey began in 2006. For the entire year, the managed bee population decreased by 40% which is the average loss rate experienced by beekeepers since 2006.

The populations of wild bees and other pollinators are suffering too. Planting a pollinator garden is a great way to provide habitat for our bee and butterfly species. Pollinator gardens typically use native plants, which are adapted to one specific climate they are grown in and require little care to thrive.

Spend some time researching native plants and other flowers that bees and butterflies like.An ideal pollinator garden should offer constant and overlapping flowering of native wildflowers from early spring to late fall. To do this the Xerces Society suggests selecting at least 9 species of wildflowers with 3 early blooming, 3 mid-blooming and 3 late blooming flowers which offer a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes to appeal to a diversity of pollinators. Include 1 native planting of a grass that can be a nesting site. Plant in swaths of 8 of each species for more efficient foraging.

Plant various species of milkweed for our Monarch friends. Milkweed is a favorite feeding flower the Monarch and other insect species. Milkweed is necessary for Monarchs to lay their eggs on the plant’s leaves. Please note that common milkweed (asclepias syriaca) tends to be rambunctious in reseeding and spreading through rhizomatic roots and will require some weeding out but are suitable for the pollinator garden. Other species of milkweed such as swamp milkweed (asclepias tuberosa) are garden friendly.

Other native plants that are attractive to pollinators and do well in CNY is Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis), Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum), New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), purple coneflower (Echinacea), monarch of beebalm to name just a few.

Native plants do not require a lot of amendments to the soil but do require at least 6 hours of sunlight. Your pollinator garden will provide one with many years of enjoyment and satisfaction knowing that you are helping conserve our precious monarch and bee populations. There are many online resources to help you start your native pollinator garden:

Northeast Pollinator.com

dec.ny.gov/docs/lands_forests_pdf/factnatives.pdf

xerces.org/pollinator-resource-center/northeast

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County also has a wonderful Home and Garden section on their website at http://cceoneida.com/ or call our office at 315-736-3394.

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