According to the 24th annual Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count by the Xerces Society, there has been a “99.9% fall from the number of monarch in the 1980s, when butterflies filled trees from Marin County to San Diego County.” Over 1.2 million monarchs were counted in 1997. Despite an increase in volunteer monitors, the count of overwintering monarchs in forest groves along the coast of California during their migration in 2020 was a mere 2,000. Indeed, the numbers have shown a precipitous decline since monitoring began. As such, Xerces Society has issued a Call to Action.
Friends of South Pasadena Nature Park Answers the Call
In 2016 Friends of South Pasadena Nature Park installed a Monarch Waystation in the park. We are now increasing our efforts to establish stands of narrowleaf milkweed on which the monarch butterflies lay their eggs. The eggs hatch out to caterpillars (larva) that only feed on milkweeds. Scientists believe that the loss of milkweed and nectar plants due to herbicide use, especially glyphosate (RoundupTM ), may be one of the reasons that monarchs are in trouble. We are working to establish local native plants that will provide both milkweed for caterpillars and nectar for the butterflies and other pollinators.
Grow Only Native Milkweeds
In the park we only grow milkweed that is native to southern California. Scientific research (Satterfield, et al., 2016) suggests that the nonnative tropical milkweed may be linked to an increase in disease among monarchs. Since the nonnative tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) does not go dormant, butterflies hang around for an easy life. Unfortunately, they also share diseases, such as the protozoan parasite, Ophryocystis elektroscirrha or OE. It appears that OE is less prevalent in migratory monarchs because those infected with OE are unable to survive the journey and therefore are less likely to infect the larger population.
Get Your Own Free Native Milkweed Seed Packet
In addition to improving habitat at the nature park for the monarch (and other pollinators), Friends of the South Pasadena Nature Park is also reaching out to the public with information and native milkweed seeds. Beginning February 18th, volunteers will be at the South Pasadena Farmer’s Market with free seeds and information. Look for our Monarch Butterfly Waystation sign. The sign, also displayed in the nature park was created in 2019 by Carrie Hashimoto, at the time a high school student at Polytechnic School.
The following brochure with information and resources will be available along with the seed packets and planting information.