The Necessity of (milk)Weeds

The monarch butterfly reminds me of first grade science projects and camping trips in the heat of August. Little did I know that they are yet another species on the decline. The Monarchs feed solely on milkweed, a plant that once flourished in Mexico, from sidewalk cracks to giant fields in the countryside. This leads to the development of an annual mass migration towards the warmth of the South in search of an abundance of milkweed. Unfortunately, the number of monarch butterflies reaching Mexico is at a record low.

Grasslands have been plowed in order to cultivate corn and soybeans due to the demand for biofuels. Farmers are then obligated to use each and every square of land in order to reap a maximum benefit, which is profit – essential for the survival of their business. The major problem however, is the sheer volume of genetically modified crops for soybeans and corn. These crops, as many know, are constructed to survive pesticides such as Montsanto’s RoundUp. The crops’ ability to endure such treatment results in its usage in excess, consequently decreasing the amount of milkweed in corn and soybean farms by 80% in the past few years. This directly correlates to the decline in monarch egg production and inevitably a decline in the number of butterflies in their extraordinary migration as well.

Our need to increase productivity in agriculture to account for the amount of human mouths to feed should aim to avoid impacting the natural movement of this species, or any species for that matter. While monarchs are not yet labeled as endangered, their population is on a mass decline. On the bright side, to counteract the death of weeds, many farmers and civilian are choosing to buy milkweed seedlings from butterfly advocates in hopes of keeping the species alive.

While weeds may not be the most beautiful plant in your garden or the most beneficial to the mass production of soy, they are just as important in our fragile ecosystem as the rhododendron that is about to be planted this coming of spring.

More information:

How to plant a monarch ready garden: