Although butterfly populations have been decreasing for some time all over the U.S., this year has been one of the worst. Personally, I can’t remember seeing any butterflies in the dozen or so gardens I maintain for my summer job, as well as my personal garden. The only one I have seen is the white butterfly that hatches from the imported cabbage worm, an invasive pest.
As for the beautiful monarchs or other butterflies that grace our presence and perform important ecosystem services, such as pollination, sightings have been slim. Why haven’t they been coming out? One reason, as Holli Ward, executive director of the Michigan Butterflies Project, explains is the uncharacteristic weather of the last year. She stated in a Detroit Free Press interview that, “This year’s cooler, wetter spring really didn’t help…Couple that with last year’s extremely hot, extremely dry weather, and it’s a terrible situation for monarchs” (Shamus 2013). Other threats to butterfly populations include loss of habitat due to urban sprawl and agricultural development and the use of pesticides. As these trends continue, the future for our butterflies looks grim. But you can help! Planting native plants that attract butterflies can create an ideal habitat for butterfly breeding and a peaceful setting for you to enjoy. Kristen Jordan Shamus of the Detroit Free Press consulted with several horticultural and butterfly experts to explain more about how you can create your own butterfly garden. Check it out here!
Sources: Shamus, Kristen Jordan. “Butterflies aren’t showing up for Michigan summer”. Detroit Free Press. July 5 2013.
“If you plant it, the butterflies will come”. Detroit Free Press. July 5 2013.
Images: Imported Cabbage Worm. Mark Suchyta