Monarchs & Milkweed – Yosemite Nature Notes
Take a microcosmic safari through a field of milkweed and discover a whole world of life, from bees to wasps to hummingbirds to butterflies. The charismatic Monarch butterfly is completely dependent on milkweed for its survival, and places like Yosemite National Park offer protection for this often overlooked plant.
Where I used to live I let the milkweed grow wild on the side of the house. It’s not a particularly attractive plant and its latex sap and ant honeydew makes for a sticky mess, but the blooms were sweetly fragrant and it’s the food source for the Monarch butterfly. As noted in the video, the milkweed evolved its own poison to protect it which the monarch out-evolved, even incorporating the poison into its own defense. Monarch’s cannot exist without the milkweed.
The chrysalis hardens up a beautiful jade green with gold accent dots. When it’s time for the butterfly to emerge, the chrysalis clears and you can see the butterfly within. After it pulls itself out, it takes a bit to get it’s bearings it seems, as if going “whoa, how did I get here?” Then it tests out its freaky new mouthparts, stretches its wings and flies off.
Modern Monsanto-style farming and widespread habitat destruction lead to a severe population decline, nearby Hawk Mountain Sanctuary had to cancel its Monarch tagging event in September because there really weren’t any butterflies this year.
Let’s hope their winter destination stays safe for these “snowbirds” butterflies. Gotta admit, they’re aptly named what with the jade abode and winter vacation in Mexico, they rule.
Where will you overwinter?