Monarch butterflies used to frequent my yard. Their presence let me know that all was right in my world. They pollinated my lettuce, carrots, beans and mints, so I could have a great harvest. Now I see that monarchs are on the endangered species list.
I haven’t seen many other butterflies either, despite planting their favorite flowers to entice them.
The media attributes the decline to
A. More land is being developed. New homes and condos are popping up everywhere. The countryside is shrinking. Human congestion is obliterating their habitat. How can these beautiful butterflies survive? Concrete, cement, and metal surfaces limit green habitats for ground nesting pollinators.
B. Farmers plant weed-killing seeds. To further control insect infestation they hire crop dusters. Planes spray Glyphosate pesticides onto their fields. The roadsides used to bloom with plenty of wildflowers and milkweeds. Then it became popular to mow along highways and crop dusting drift wiped them out.
C. It is common for homeowners to spray their dandelions with Roundup now for that perfect lawn. Even lawn care companies spray with chemicals to control weeds. The flags they put out caution against children and pets using the lawn for at least 24 hours afterwards. Ever wonder why that is?
We are such a chemical-oriented society. Those dandelions benefit bees and butterflies. They can provide a nutritious food source during hard times when food might be scarce.
I haven’t seen a honey bee in four years. I have to rely on tiny bumblebees, flies, and wasps to pollinate my garden now. Thank God tomatoes, beans, and peppers are self-pollinators. But I’m a home gardener, farmers growing for profit can’t depend on this.
I even tried mason bees for a while. The drawback was I couldn’t predict when they would hatch. After they gleaned my flowers, they flew away to seek sustenance elsewhere.
Farmers growing crops that need pollination lease beehives for a period of time. Canadian farmers have rented hives for years. Colony hive disease will not ensure there are enough hives out there. 30% of bee colonies died in the last 8 years due to Colony Collapse.
D. Climate change is being blamed as another factor for the decline. Some believe the planet is in the midst of a sixth mass extinction. The planet’s fauna has experienced a major collapse before. The rise of invasive pests and disease is another major issue.
This is not surprising when you think about the Covid variants affecting us humans. Pollinator declines are occurring around the globe. China is particularly hard hit. The total decline of all insects on the planet is disturbing. It is occurring at the rate of 2.5% every year. That’s scary because they are a food source for bird, fish and mammal species. Insects are going extinct 8 times faster than mammals, birds, and reptiles.
Dragonflies, mayflies, and beetles are dying as well. Scientists are saying we are experiencing a “biological annihilation”. 50% of animals that once shared the earth are gone. In the past the ice age or asteroid collisions caused mass extinctions.
Human activities are causing this current extinction. Insects comprise two-thirds of terrestrial species. This event will have a profound impact on all life forms. Insects function as crop pollinators, pest controllers, and nutrient recyclers in soil.
This can have a catastrophic effect on the survival of mankind. It could jeopardize 35% of our global food supply. European countries mandate protection and restoration of pollinator habitats. Insects are under-appreciated for their vital contribution to the health of our planet.
Pesticides, fertilizers, and heavy land use for farming are the primary culprits. We have got to change our way of producing food! Current declines are due to manmade causes rather than changes in temperature fluctuations.
We need better regulation of insecticides and fungicides. Europe has banned Glyphosate pesticide use. Our EPA and FDA are not convinced of the potential harm to humans. That’s why it is still sold in the United States.
E. Electromagnetic waves from power lines and cellphone towers disorient birds and insects. This threat could increase as nations switch to 5G. It is hard to know what to believe?
I do know that high tension wires emit a persistent sizzling sound. The hair on my arms stands up when I scurry beneath them to access a hiking trail.
Studies many years ago hinted at electromagnetic disruption to the ecosystem. Radio waves can disrupt the magnetic compass that migrating birds and insects use. Magnetic field fluctuations impair the homing ability of honey bees. Science backs this information up.
I don’t know what the answer is to stop the worldwide decline of pollinators. I’ll leave that to the scientists and politicians. But each of us is free to make our own choices.
I refuse to use Roundup on my property. I maintain an organic yard and have a wildflower area set aside to attract pollinators. I prefer to eat food that is grown on my own property or an organic farm.
I treasure the memory of a tree covered with monarchs on their migration to Mexico. I remember beaching a canoe on an Iowa River sandbar where a multitude of butterflies rested in the mud. I revel in the sight of a wide variety of butterflies feasting on wildflowers in a mountain meadow.
Perhaps you have encountered magical butterfly moments yourself. I pray that future generations of children can enjoy such precious experiences. This is such a beautiful earth. Let’s preserve it!