Visiting the Monarchs

I saw my first Monarch yesterday, floating over my flower beds, landing on my milkweed, maybe (fingers crossed) laying an egg that will start the cycle of the Monarch all over again, from egg, to chrysalis, to butterfly, to Mexico!

In Bicycling with Butterflies, the author Sara Dykman begins her journey in Mexico where the Monarchs overwinter, and follows the Monarchs as they start their 3,000 mile journey north to reproduce and start new generations. The Monarchs have been at their overwintering sites in Mexico since early November, roosting in high altitude, tropical fir forests. Mexico has created monarch sanctuaries to protect these overwintering grounds, the Cerro Pelon and Piedra Herrada sanctuaries in the State of Mexico, and El Rosario and Sierra Chincua on the eastern edge of Michoacán state.

If you want to visit these sanctuaries from November to March, you’d fly into Mexico City and travel to Zitácuaro, Michoacán, the closest major city. Be forewarned, however: monarch roosts are at high altitude, and you need to hike or ride a horse to see the sites closely.

Monarch butterflies and their sanctuaries are threatened by climate change, loss of habitat, the eradication of milkweed, and toxic pesticides. There has also been concern that violence and illegal logging in the area will affect those who work and support the sanctuaries.

I for one, would love to escape our Cleveland Winter in December for trip to see the Monarchs. There are so many ways to visit and support them from your doorstep as well – plant milkweed, plant a pollinator garden, advocate for habitat restoration, and, of course, keep informed! And register for our talk with author Sara Dykman, who, I’m sure, will have many more suggestions for ensuring that future generations experience the magic of Monarchs!

~ Dori

If You Plant It, They Will Come

Our 2021 One Book, One City reads are all about Monarch butterflies, tracing their travels, and learning about the importance of their journey. Monarchs are amazingly beautiful, but are just one of many pollinators that are threatened by decreasing habitat and climate change. If you remember one thing, remember that pollinators support our food crops – and finding ways to decrease habitat destruction or build new habitat will provide sustenance to future generations.

Native plants and their varying cultivars have evolved together with pollinators, and so have ideal flower sizes and shapes to support the many pollinators we need. And because they’re from Ohio, they’re easy to grow – no picky plants in the bunch! Here at Rocky River Public Library, with the help of the Beach Cliff Garden Club and library volunteers, we put in a pollinator garden that is officially certified by Monarch Watch. We’ve called our garden “Monarch Trails & Tales” and it includes milkweed for Monarchs, their only food, as well as numerous native perennials. Take a look at it the next time to visit and see what kinds of pollinators you spot – there’s butterflies and bees of course, but also small flies that are essential to pollination!

Lots of local nurseries sell native plants, and the Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District sell native plants in groups of 50 for a reasonable cost. If we all sacrifice a little lawn or even plant containers of native plants, we can grow and nurture our pollinator population, creating pollinator pathways and beautiful gardens at the same time.

As Douglas Tallamy, professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware and author of numerous books about the intersection of plants, animals and humans, writes “…we humans have disrupted natural habitats in so many ways and in so many places that the future of our nation’s biodiversity is dim unless we start to share the places in which we live –our cities and, to an even greater extent, our suburbs — with the plants and animals that evolved there”

~ Dori