EcoBlog

The latest thinking on ecological landscapes. Useful tips to improve our environment

ecobeneficial-trademark-shadow-new2
Kim Eierman

Kim Eierman

Founder of EcoBeneficial!

Available for virtual and in-person landscape consulting, talks and classes.

Buy a copy of
The Pollinator Victory Garden!

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.
Pollinators of Native Plants with Heather Holm

EcoBeneficial Resolution for the New Year – Connect the Ecological Dots

The new year brings more challenges than ever to our environment. Fires, floods, development of pristine natural areas, species loss, pollinator decline – on and on it goes. Sometimes it can feel a bit paralyzing as we ask ourselves – “what can we do, how can we really make a difference?”

The answer is this – we can do a lot in our managed landscapes to improve the environment around us. It’s not mysterious and it’s not even that difficult – we simply have to landscape a little bit differently, incorporating the needs of the other species around us. We need to start connecting the ecological dots.

The Monarch butterfly is just one example of the power of connecting ecological dots. Ten years ago, if you asked an average homeowner “what does a Monarch caterpillar eat,” you would have been rewarded with a blank stare. Now, after significant media coverage about Monarch decline, many Americans understand that Monarch caterpillars eat milkweeds. Unfortunately, it often stops there – few people can name the host plants for other butterfly species, nor do they focus on planting those other species. But, milkweeds are “hot” and are being planted from coast to coast.

Last winter, the Monarch population that overwinters in Mexico took a big hit. Devastating winter storms killed millions of Monarchs – diminishing that population by an estimated 27 percent. Beyond scientific journals, even USA Today reported on the story.  It seemed that 2017 would be a poor year for sighting Monarchs in our landscapes.

Monarch fest at the local nursery

How odd then that so many of us on the East Coast saw a bumper crop of Monarchs over the summer and fall. More Monarchs than many of us had seen in a decade.  What happened? It’s speculation at best, but the feverish planting of milkweeds may be playing a role in these happy observations – plant it and they will come. A greater awareness of the impact of pesticides, and a decrease in using them, may also be helping.

Protecting overwintering habitat in Mexico and parts of California are absolutely critical to saving Monarchs. Limiting pesticide and herbicide use in agricultural fields in the Midwest is also essential for migrating Monarchs. Support those efforts, make financial contributions to those causes, but also take action in the landscapes around you.

From urban gardens and suburban yards, agricultural fields and corporate parks to schools and places of worship – let’s start landscaping not just for Monarchs, but for the other species. A resolution for the new year – let’s start connecting the ecological dots…

For more information Monarchs, check out this EcoBeneficial interview with Dr. Karen Oberhauser of the Monarch Lab.

Happy new year from Kim Eierman at EcoBeneficial!

Photo:  Monarch on Butterfly Milkweed
Photo credit: Heather Holm, author of Pollinators of Native Plants (interview) and Bees: An Identification and Native Plant Forage Guide (interview).

 

2 Comments

  1. Joan thompson on January 16, 2018 at 7:26 am

    Sounds like a great idea. Can you tell us the common butterflies in the Northeast and what we should be planting for them?



  2. Kim Eierman on January 16, 2018 at 1:33 pm

    There is a wonderful list provided on Focus on Nature Tours’ website of butterflies of Eastern North America.
    For a shorter, handy guide you can find my tip sheet “Native Host Plants for Caterpillars” in the EcoBeneficial webstore.



More from EcoBlog

Honey Bee on Big Leaf Maple

Critical Early Trees and Shrubs for Bees

In very the early spring, trees and shrubs with early blooms are critical for honey bees and our native bees.  Some provide both nectar and pollen, and some only offer  pollen.  As the growing season progresses, more resources become available to bees, but you can help them out in early…

Read More
Honey Bee on Poor Man's Patch (Mentzelia floridana)

Another Challenge to Honey Bees – You Can Help!

Backyard beekeeping has risen dramatically in the U.S. Unfortunately, in many areas there just aren’t enough nectar and pollen plants to go around to feed all the hungry honey bees. The result: starving honey bees or bees that seek out any sugary substance close at hand, in order to survive.…

Read More
Humming Bird and Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans)

Great Native Plants for Hummingbirds: What Are You Growing?

Want hummingbirds?  Skip the feeder (or add to it) and grow some of the native plants that hummingbirds favor.  Hummers particularly love red tubular flowers, so make sure to include some. Here are some hummer favorites: Native Perennials and more for Hummingbirds Agastache foeniculum (Anise Hyssop) Aquilegia canadensis (Canada Columbine)…

Read More