There are many different pollinators, but the monarch butterfly is different from all the rest. This butterfly has been a sight for sore eyes for generations. Monarchs had such large populations that when they migrated they were in such large groups that the sky would turn orange for hours. However, now this butterfly is endangered.
Part of this is due to human expansion and the destruction of its caterpillar’s host plant, milkweed. Milkweed is considered invasive because it spreads by both seeds and tubers making it very unpopular. It also has a toxic milky white sap which makes it even less desirable. The milkweed’s toxic sap is what makes the caterpillar and butterfly poisonous. Speaking of the caterpillar, did you know that just one of them can eat an entire milkweed leaf a day? Caterpillars have a lot of threats like pesticides, tachinid flies, birds, and ants.
Another threat to the monarch is Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, a parasite that co-evolved with the monarchs and will infect them when the caterpillar eats spores on the milkweed. To keep your OE levels down, cut your milkweeds back every winter. Once infected, the monarch can eclose with deformities that may cause death.
So, if you want to plant milkweed to help support the monarch population, do not use pesticides. If you want to plant a butterfly garden for the monarch, many milkweed plants are necessary (I mean 15+), but you must also plant a few nectar plants as well. Two of their favorites are Mexican Sunflower and Goldenrod. But they also like zinnias, echinacea, passionflower, May Night salvia, and chives.
We all know that monarchs are toxic, but there are even some mimics. You might have seen a few of these mimics and thought it was a monarch. There are two mimics that I’ll go over for you, the Queen and the Viceroy Butterflies. The Queen is generally easy to tell apart from the Monarch with its wings open. However, the undersides of the wing look exactly like a Monarch, except for the white spots that cover the entire wing and not just the edges. The Viceroy’s size is a dead giveaway because it is barely half the size of a monarch. But, if that is not enough the Viceroy has a semi-straight line on the hind wing that separates it from the Monarch.
There is much to love about my favorite pollinator, the Monarch, and it should be enjoyed by many more generations. Some of you may even remember finding Monarch caterpillars and raising them and after turning into a butterfly setting them free in school. If you want to learn more about this beautiful and majestic creature visit the MonarchWatch.org.
Drake Horton, 10
Bees are a very important species of insect because they pollinate the majority of plants. Bees have been on the job since before dinosaurs were around. Bees came to be whenever flowers came around 125 million years ago. They evolved from hornets 100 million years ago and hornets evolved from ants so they could pollinate instead of eating other insects. Now, bees are farmed for their sweet honey. You should be cautious to avoid being stung by bees, not because it hurts you, but because a bee loses its stinger and intestines whenever it stings you.
Kyrian Horton, 8
Hummingbirds are neat with their long beaks. They are so small and colorful that they blend in with the flowers. They pollinate like bees and butterflies. Their feathers pick up pollen when they eat and they accidentally drop it on other flowers when they fly by them. They like sweet nectar so you can attract them to your garden with bright flowers. They especially like red ones. Or, you can put out a hummingbird feeder with sugar water, just don’t add dye to the mixture!
Gannon Horton, 6
Pollinators like to eat nectar from flowers. Flowers attract pollinators by their smell and their easy to see colors. Some pollinators are bees, butterflies, bears, and bugs. If you were a bee you would have a hard job keeping your hive safe from bears and other bugs. Bears like to dig into hives and eat honey but they also help pollinate when pollen gets in their fur and they spread it around. If we didn’t have pollinators, we wouldn’t have honey to sweeten our tea and we would all die of hunger.