Monarchs in the Meadow
Pollinators like monarch butterflies get a boost with habitat preservation.
Created by Alison Shapiro, Explore Natural Communities Intern Summer 2015, NatureServe.
Sound: Bee, recorded by nps.gov (soundbible.com). Public Domain.
Music: The Curtain Rises, and Bumba Crossing, by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons: Attribution 3.0
Photo: Monarch Butterfly on Lobelia, by Matt Jones. Licensed under Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0
Podcast time: 2:06 minutes
Far away in Mexico, something very important is happening. Spring is coming and the monarch butterflies know it's time to move. Flying out on delicate orange wings, they travel for hundreds of miles from their warm and sunny winter homes to eastern North America where they find their beloved wildflowers. But there's one plant in particular that the monarchs are looking for and it isn't so easy to find anymore—milkweed.
In Rock Creek Park, land use has changed dramatically over time. Fires that once spread periodically throughout the forest are suppressed. And in the shade of big trees, some of the smaller plants, like milkweed, have trouble getting the sun they need. So what is a monarch to do without the milkweed that their eggs will need?
Quickly, to the meadow!
Without fires to naturally clear spaces in the forest, Rock Creek Park staff have set up a series of "managed meadows." Kept open by planned mowing, these open spaces give sun-loving grasses and wildflowers like milkweed the opportunity to grow.
Pollinators of all kinds get the nectar and pollen they need from the wildflowers in these meadows. Not just butterflies like the monarch, but bees and hummingbirds, too.
The Presidential Memo creating the Pollinator Health Strategy is just one way people are coming together to save the pollinators. National Parks are restoring pollinator habitats and promoting conservation of this important group of animals worldwide.
Even as the monarchs find safe places to lay their eggs and flower nectar to eat, they will soon be on their way again. But maybe they will hang around Rock Creek Park a little while longer, enjoying the meadows the park provides, and give us a chance to enjoy the pollinator show.