Where have the butterflies gone? Just in the last few days I’ve noticed their absence. On Friday I was watching one bigger than a goldfinch feeding on a Zinnia, and suddenly yesterday, I didn’t see any while working in the garden.
And this morning, I read Kim Smith’s beautiful piece on the declining Monarch population.
Our population of Swallowtails has been strong this season. We’ve had their constant companionship for months. We often stop to enjoy them as we’re walking past the windows, arriving home in the car, and working in the garden. They have been a delight- and now are more than missed.
And now this morning, sipping coffee early this morning on the deck, I spy new caterpillars.
What a joy to find them. They are still enjoying the Bronze Fennel I sought so early this spring, hoping for a huge, ferny display all summer. Well, Andrew Patton ordered it for me when I inquired, and soon I purchased beautiful healthy plants at Homestead Garden Center. We planted it in big pots, alongside Borage, with high hopes. Somehow, I think that watching generation after generation of these beautiful caterpillars has been even more interesting than a huge Fennel plant might have been; disregarding the fact that they were never able to bloom.
So I’m happy that the Swallowtails found a sanctuary here in our little garden. We have done our small part here to keep their population healthy and happily growing.
Tiger Swallowtails on Echinacea.
Sadly, the Monarchs are struggling. The herbicides used by farmers raising GMO crops destroy the host plants Monarchs require to raise their young. The Milkweed plants are disappearing from the countryside for many reasons- development, spread of the suburbs, and industrial farming. Each of us can do our small part to assist the Monarchs, along with countless other small wild things, by providing safe habitat and the host plants they require to live.
The stores are full of brightly packaged chemicals to solve every gardening problem, from weeds to mosquitoes. As more and more of us see past the promise of a quick fix, and understand the implications of using these dangerous chemicals, perhaps we can turn to other, safer, ways to manage our land and grow our gardens. The 1960’s promise of “Better Life Through Chemistry” was a hollow promise. We have poisoned our water, poisoned our land, and now are poisoning ourselves.
Please keep in mind that we are all interconnected. All of us are parts of the web of life, sharing this beautiful home hurtling through space. And we Homo sapiens sapiens, intended to be the wisest of creatures, are the ones who have killed the oceans, filled the aquifers with fracking fluids, cut the forests which purify our air, and are now in process of even destroying our store of seeds for the foods on which we depend through genetic modification to make them immune to herbicides. As our farmers spray their fields with glyphosate, killing the host plants needed by birds and butterflies; so it also runs off into creeks and ponds, killing insect larvae, frogs, fish, and turtles.
We can not, by ourselves, change industrial farming practices or stop fracking for natural gas.
We can do our own small bit to keep our own garden as a sanctuary free of herbicides, and pesticides; to provide sources of clean water; and grow a few life-giving plants to sustain the creatures who find shelter with us. As we do to the least among us…. we do to ourselves.
All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013
For readers in the Williamsburg, Va area, Homestead Garden Center is committed to organic gardening practices. All plants they raise in their own greenhouses have been raised with lots of TLC and only organic fertilizers. If you have visited Homestead, then you know that only organic, environmentally safe fertilizers, fungicides, soil amendments, insect controls, and other gardening aids are available in their shop for sale. Everyone in the family is knowledgeable and can help guide you to excellent products to enhance your garden. They have taught me a thing or three along the way, and I appreciate their expertise in organic gardening methods. For friends not in Virginia, I hope you can find a garden shop with a staff so knowledgeable and caring.
Tiger Swallowtails on Echinacea, or Purple Coneflower