Last week when I spotted a female Monarch (Danaus plexippus) on my coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), my hopes soared that this year we might host a new generation of this imperiled species in our backyard.
Today, I spotted a male and my hopes grew. I wandered over to my milkweed patch (Asclepias syriaca) to check and I found 5 instars. What a thrill! Who would have thought that seeing a caterpillar munching my plants would make me so happy?
While there are several factors leading to the decline of this unique migratory insect, including widespread use of herbicides killing off milkweed host plants, habitat loss and climate change affecting their winter home in Mexico, some scientists believe the major cause lies in the use of neonicotinoids, a systemic pesticide used in commercial agriculture and the nursery trade, which is killing pollinators that visit the flowers of contaminated plants.
It is important for us to put pressure on growers, retailers and politicians to ban the use of systemics in flowering plants, as well as urging the practice of organic methods in home gardens. We must be good stewards if we want a world that works for every species, not just humans.