Georgia is a key piece of the Monarch butterfly’s survival. And right now, they’re not not doing so hot. Since record-keeping began, the lowest number of monarchs arrived in Mexico for their winter migration this past year.
In the past two weeks, both The New York Times and The Washington Post reported on this disturbing trend, with worrisome headlines such as, “The Year the Monarch Didn’t Appear,” and “Why are the monarch butterflies disappearing.”
Both articles alluded to the cause: the herbicide Roundup. The Center for Food Safety says it much more plainly though:
Monarch butterflies are one of the most beautiful and iconic insects in the world, and they are in serious trouble. The Monarch butterfly population in North America has been shrinking at an alarming rate[i], and in 2012 was at the lowest level since consistent record-keeping began in 1994.[ii] Why? In part because a significant portion of their breeding habitat is being destroyed by herbicides used on genetically engineered (GE) crops.[iii]
Roundup doesn’t kill Monarchs directly, but rather kills their primary food source. Milkweeds, or “Monarch flowers,” are critical to the Monarch’s survival because they are the only plants Monarch larvae will eat. But the most important for Monarchs— common milkweed—is being demolished largely by the increasingly rampant use of glyphosate used in conjunction with Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops (glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide).
Ready for some good news? OK!
An innovative program, called Monarchs Across Georgia, led by the Environmental Education Alliance of Georgia, is partnering with farmers and others to help the Monarchs.
One of the farms participating in the Monarchs Across Georgia program, Cane Creek Farm in Cumming, which is a Certified Pollinator Habitat, also included chrysalises in their CSA boxes last year! Here are some great photos from Cane Creek Farms.
This graph from a presentation given at the 2012 Monarch Biology and Conservation Meeting demonstrates the relationship between Monarch decline and the use of pesticides.
Also, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has been working with a great Georgia Organics partner, the Natural Resources Conservation Service to create more pollinator habitat on organic farms through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.