Now that spring is here and summer is around the corner, count yourself lucky if you start seeing orange and black monarch butterflies.
If you grew up with monarchs swishing through summer gardens, you know they are far less prevalent now than in the past. In many parts of the country the numbers have been declining for decades. In the U.S., in the last 40 years, the eastern population which flies to Mexico each winter, has declined by about 80 percent as reported in National Geographic.
On the West Coast, where monarchs spend the winter, Science magazine reported a near 99 percent drop in the local population.
Recently, a court decision said California’s Endangered Species Act doesn’t apply to insects, as reported in National Geographic.
California’s monarch population has fallen from 200,000 in 2017, to about 29,000 in 2018 and in 2019, less than 2,000.
Many monarch watchers were probably surprised when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that the butterfly will not be added to the endangered species list this year. However the species will be reconsidered each year until 2024.
A declining population
In the interim, there are several dedicated federal, state and private conservation programs in place to help save monarchs. That said, many monarch conservationist have noted publicly that the western population needed protection yesterday.
Why such a decline? The monarch decline has typically been equated with the butterflies’ diminishing habitat, particularly milkweed.
As the source of milkweed goes so do these beautiful butterflies. Where milkweed plants once grew along roads, railroad tracks, prairies, and open ground, many areas have been cleared to make way for progress.
Climate change, insecticides, habitat loss and wildfires may all contribute to the decline in monarch populations, but there’s still much to learn.
Some homeowners have begun planting nectar-rich plants and milkweed in their yards in order to provide migrating monarchs with nourishment.
Private and federal efforts have provided about 500 million milkweed stems in various parts of the country, but more work is needed.
Many people are taking up the cause and involving all members of the family, young and old. They are not only making a difference in their community, by helping monarchs thrive and survive they’ve grown closer as a family.
New children’s book offers hope for monarchs
Author Bev Davis’s book for all family members, Winging It –A Monarch Love Story looks at monarch butterflies’ life cycles and how children and adults together can save and protect them.
Davis says, “These strong, fragile butterflies bring hope to the world every time a monarch is born yet they face increasing challenges, including a diminishing supply of milkweed, an essential food for their survival.”
Winging It (www.bevdavisauthor.com) has won several national awards ----Readers’ Favorite Award, Big NY City Book Award, Distinguished Favorite in Children’s Fiction (2020), The Purple Dragonfly Award for Green Books, Environmental (2020) and the Pinnacle Award (2020).
The Madison-based author is also a hospice chaplain at Unity Health in Door County and a speaker on the topic of anti-bullying. She wrote the acclaimed Great Gray children’s book series that revolved around the elephant, Great Gray and the importance of love, self-esteem, and kindness. The stories came to her when she was doing her chaplain residency at a Wisconsin hospital.
She holds a Masters of Divinity degree from McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago and is also a Certified Dementia Practitioner (NCCDP). She is a member of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)
From mason jars to milkweed gardens
Based on a true story, Winging It is based on the work a grandmother and her granddaughter achieved to save monarchs. The book features “Chesterina,” a monarch who is guided to life by her real human friends, Grandma Eileen and her granddaughter, Maya, real heroes admired by Davis.
In a narrative, the author wrote, “No matter what your age, you can play a very important part in the monarch’s survival.”
Davis’s book tells the story of how the grandmother and granddaughter team up to save hundreds of monarch butterflies by protecting the caterpillars in Mason jars until the butterfly blossoming period ends. It’s an easy project for families to do together.
Once the butterflies were ‘born,’ the family took the Mason jars to a Chicago botanical garden where an abundance of milkweed grows. Then they transferred the monarchs to their new home.
The book is dedicated to Pat, a dedicated Monarch midwife, and to Eileen and Maya, a grandmother and granddaughter team beyond compare. The book is also an ode to Edna White, gone too soon. She is the namesake of Edna’s Garden where milkweed is now plentiful. Because of Edna’s guidance, the Beverly/Morgan Park neighborhood of Chicago is a place of beauty — for both butterflies and humans.
“All of my books, Winging It as well as the Great Gray series are books for all ages,” Davis said. “There are life lessons in each book for all members of a family—from grandchildren to grandparents.”