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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Where have all the bees and butterflies gone??

     We have noticed something strange the past two years with our garden.  Our squash plants flower but we haven't gotten any squash.  Last year we thought maybe the ground was wearing out but this year we fertilized and put in some new top soil.  But again no squash.  The mystery deepens.
     While photographing the blue butterfly above I realize that I have not seen a Monarch butterfly in a couple of years.  I used to see them all the time in our yard and garden.  Could our problem be with the loss of bees and butterflies to cross pollinate our plants?  Doing some research I found this article in the Washington Post of the decline of the Monarch population.
     Probably even more important is the bee population decline.  Seventy-five percent of our nuts, fruits and vegetables are pollinated by bees.  If the bees disappear we will only be left with self pollinating foods like corn.  The loss of crops that need the bees would lead to world famine in a way we have never seen.
     While there is controversy about what is causing the decline of the butterflies and bees the leading indicators point to pesticides. One pesticide class in particular has been suspected of being a cause and they are neonicotimoids.  The interaction of pesticides to control insects destructive to crops  and their negative impact on insects that pollinate our crops is one of those trade offs that frequently is recognized only after the destruction reaches a point of no return.  Let's hope this doesn't happen with butterflies and bees.


   Call it a coincidence but after writing yesterday's blog I walked outside and saw this Monarch butterfly.  First one in a couple of years.

    Something on the destructiveness of lawns.


Anonymous said...

Are you sure that's a Monarch and not a Painted Lady? They look very similar in color but the Monarch is much larger.

duanestclair said...

Fairly sure it was a Monarch. But I see the similarity.

Anonymous said...

Could also be a Viceroy....but I hope it is a Monarch. I have milkweed planted in my garden, but have not had the large monarch caterpillars feasting on it for about 2 years now :(. I do seem to have a fair amount of bees:) and the overabundant cabbage butterflies laid eggs on my precious brussel sprout plants :( ....grrrr!

Clayton G. Koonce said...

The county has been conducting an annual butterfly survey for a few years now, with volunteers monitoring specific areas. I'm participating for the first time this year and watching the Lake Kittamaqundi area. I've only seen one monarch here so far this summer (and a couple of viceroys), but swallowtails seem to be up in numbers. (I hardly saw any last summer on my walks.) On a brighter note, some of us went on a walk at the Mount Pleasant section of Howard County Conservancy last Saturday. We counted 35 tiger swallowtails and 7 (seven) monarchs. This covered the community garden, wildflower garden and the fields and woods of the Conservancy. The community garden in particular was swarming with various butterflies. (It's out in the open higher up a slope.) I don't know the rules of the garden, but maybe they don't use pesticides. Some of the gardeners are growing flowers specifically for attracting pollinators.