Monarchs

Monarchs hatch on milkweed plants in North America and then spend the winter in Mexico. Twenty years ago, there were at least a billion Monarchs in North America and now there are ninety-three million thanks to herbicides*. Shame on us.

Since we as humans are responsible for this loss we need to do something about it. First, stop spraying poisons! Second, save a little space to plant milkweed, which is the only plant that monarch caterpillars eat, and other native plants for nectar. If we all do a little bit it can make a big difference.

Many flowers are terrific sources of nectar for monarch butterflies. They include purple and yellow cone flowers, sunflowers, marigolds, poppies, daisies, verbena and many more. This is a good time to make definite plans for spring. My daughter, Dianne, has a butterfly garden each year that includes milkweed and native flowers.

 

* Source: “Late Migrations” by Margaret Renkl, New York Times contributor

 

Photos by Pixabay

Late Migrations

Monday Book Review

“Late Migrations” by Margaret Renkl

This is another book borrowed from a friend, that I would not have chosen to buy, but which I thoroughly enjoyed. I keep wanting to call this a “feel good” book, but then I recall that it contained some painful stories of disappointment and loss.  Somehow the author manages to make these comforting along with all her accounts of kids, birds, and butterflies.

“Late Migrations” is a compilation of short stories and that makes it easy to pick up and put down at leisure. I recommend this book which is filled with love.

Margaret Renkl is an opinion writer for The New York Times where her essays appear weekly.

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Pollinators

Do We Need Pollinators?

Pollinators, mainly bees, but also butterflies and other insects are necessary for our food supply. These pollinators are responsible for the sexual reproduction of plants by cross-pollination and also provide genetic diversity. Serious pollinator decline has been a worldwide problem since toward the end of the last century.

Pollinator Toxins

This decline coincides with the development of neonicotinoids (neonics for short) a chemical similar to nicotine which is used in a variety of insecticides. See the Wikipedia chart below for more information. Note that the US$ amount is from ten years ago.

Name Company Products Turnover in million US$ (2009)
Imidacloprid Bayer CropScience Confidor, Admire, Gaucho, Advocate 1,091
Thiamethoxam Syngenta Actara, Platinum, Cruiser 627
Clothianidin Sumitomo Chemical/Bayer CropScience Poncho, Dantosu, Dantop, Belay 439
Acetamiprid Nippon Soda Mospilan, Assail, ChipcoTristar 276
Thiacloprid Bayer CropScience Calypso 112
Dinotefuran Mitsui Chemicals Starkle, Safari, Venom 79
Nitenpyram Sumitomo Chemical Capstar, Guardian 8

Neonics are known to be toxic to not only pollinators but also birds, some aquatic animals, and other wildlife.  The EU and Canada, as well as other countries, have restricted the use of neonics in an effort to curb the pollinator decline. One would think that the US would have done the same, but one would be wrong. Virtually all corn grown in this country is treated with one of these insecticides. In 2014 at least one-third of all soybeans planted were treated with these products.

EPA

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency has been reviewing this issue and has quietly pushed back its timetable for a decision of its own review. Knowing this I was curious as to whether the EPA’s website provided any current information. What I found was interesting.

  • There were twenty-two references found using the word “neonic” in a search. No, I did not read them.
  • Apparently, due to the monthlong government shutdown, the EPA had this notice at the top of the website:
    • Due to a lapse in appropriations, EPA websites will not be regularly updated. In the event of an environmental emergency imminently threatening the safety of human life or where necessary to protect certain property, the EPA website will be updated with appropriate information. Please note that all information on the EPA website may not be up to date, and transactions and inquiries submitted to the EPA website may not be processed or responded to until appropriations are enacted.

In spite of protests, petitions, lawsuits (NRDC) and Congressional bills (Conyers) the EPA continues its inaction while over 4,000 species of wild bees and other pollinators are destroyed.

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“When the flower blooms, the bees come uninvited.” Ramakrishna

The Good Wife

The heat had subsided and autumn had arrived with the week-end. The skies were the bluest and the clouds the whitest. The sun was warm and I had planned to enjoy a local festival, but alas, it was not to be. Good wife that I am, I spent Saturday doing all the chores my husband and I generally did together. Due to his back injury, I had to do all the household stuff, like laundry, cooking and cleaning, alone. After completing it all, I was ready for something more challenging, something outdoors on that gorgeous day.

Our two acres, which usually looked like a park, no thanks to me, was really in need of cutting. I thought it was a perfect time to try out that new John Deere tractor my husband, Raymond, thought was so great. It was a small garden tractor with tilt wheel and other neat gadgets I had never used. I was sure he would appreciate my help, since I knew how he liked to keep the property looking neat. After twenty minutes of his assuring me that it didn’t really need to be mowed, I was undeterred.

The thing really did run like a deer, but it was not a dear to handle. No matter how hard I chased a snake I was unable to run over it, which of course, meant there was a big snake out there holding a grudge. The orchard part of the property now looked rather like a crazy quilt, but there were dozens of beautiful butterflies on the ground enjoying the fallen fruit and I couldn’t just run over them as though they were a snake! They were like monarchs except electric blue! None were lost, thanks to my fancy maneuvering.

Version 2

We had a lot of trees in the yard. The big ones still bore my marks from the last time I had mown, thirteen years before, following Raymond’s car accident. The little ones, hopefully, would heal as well this time. Of course those blue spruce seedlings would never see the light of day.  Too bad Raymond didn’t tell me that he had planted them, or maybe he had, but I sure never saw them, at least not while they were vertical.

The whole thing took a few hours to complete. At first Raymond watched his “woman” proudly from the deck, smiling at me as I waved to him with each circle I made around the house. Then, I noticed that each time I drove by his posture was a little more slumped. Finally, his head was hung in his hands. I guess he was in pain, poor guy, so I smiled encouragingly, gave him a thumbs up and kept up my speed.

Finally, I was finished, except for the trim work. I hopped off the tractor and headed for the shed to get the weed whacker and a small push mower, but he called for me to come have a coke and rest with him on the deck.  While I sipped the cold drink, he explained that both the tools I needed were out of commission. He, regretfully, said that he could not find the string stuff for the whacker anywhere and that the little push mower had already been “winterized,” whatever that meant. Just when I was ready for something more physical than just riding around! I was quite disappointed, because there really was a lot of trimming needed, about two feet around each tree, flower, walk, structure, etc., to be exact.

That night at supper when my husband asked the blessing, as he always did, he prayed something like this: “Lord, if you can’t heal my back soon, please hold off on the rain until it frosts.” Now, what do you suppose he meant by that?

Written September 15, 1990 and Edited for Blog September 3, 2016