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The MonarchMaster Gardener Scoop – January 4, 2017

Master Gardener Scoop.pdf

By Martha Ann Lamczyk,

Master Gardener 

I do not know the purpose of the monarch or why and how these incidents happened to us at our homestead in the late summer of 2015, but I do know that every choice we make affects the environment in either a positive or a negative way.

Today, the plight of the monarch is attracting a lot of national attention. This bright orange and black butterfly seems to be an inspiration to many that something needs to be done to keep this object of beauty and devotion from becoming extinct. They also tend to remind us that if our current practices of destroying their former habitats in Mexico, as well as in the United States, is not in their best interest, we need to change at least some of our practices.

Change can sometimes make us feel uncomfortable. Quite often, it is simply hard for us to implement new practices. Take the milkweed for example. We know that the monarch must have it for survival, but how many of us take the time to plant it or let it grow naturally?  We need to be asking ourselves, are we contributing to the problem or are we really trying help them?

While oftentimes my husband and I see eye to eye on many issues, we are totally at opposite ends with this one. I try to leave most of the milkweeds alone. (They grow naturally here. We do not have to plant them.) He does not like them because they make the yard look messy.

I also like to watch the eggs turn into caterpillars and grow. He does not have time. He spends most of the growing season farming, spreading all types of chemicals, mowing, bailing, and trying to make a profit so that we can live comfortably. I do see his point. He also sees mine. Yes we do have a sizable amount of milkweed that grows in the yard, and at times it will be leaning over the sidewalks and against the house.

Nevertheless, I was amazed one afternoon several years ago when I noticed the cocoon of a monarch attached to the top of the doorframe which leads into our home office. I have no idea how it got past the double doors on the front of the house or just how long it had been there before I noticed it, but I did need to make a choice; I decided to leave it undisturbed.

Then one day the miracle happened right before our eyes. The metamorphosis was a success, and it started twisting its way out of its cocoon which gave me a lot of mixed emotions since somehow it needed to find its way back outside, and I knew that it needed my help in order to be successful.

I decided it was best to let my instincts take over. I knew nothing about raising butterflies nor had I ever read anything on the subject from the U of I Extension office. I also do not recall witnessing anything like it through the media.

I left the butterfly alone to wiggle. It hung for almost two days upside down on the doorframe until it emerged completely. When it did, one wing was straight and the other wing was very crumpled. That was when I knew that it needed to be transported outside.

So I went outside and found a small stick. It took some time and patience and a ladder, but finally my butterfly climbed onto the stick by himself, and I walked outside by the Japanese maple. Then after a while, my butterfly traded the stick for the tree. He seemed to like this environment a lot better because the wind was blowing, and it helped him to straighten out his crumpled wing. When both of his wings were straight, he began to push them up and down for at least a couple of minutes. Then all was complete, and my butterfly flew off into the bright afternoon while our son played Killer Instinct in our home office.

     All living creatures are interconnected to the earth and everything in it. Each of our past choices will leave a mark on the circle of life.  If many of us would take our stewardship responsibility more seriously, we just might be living in a better world.

The Monarch