Saturday, July 14, 2018

First Monarch Sighted at Herrontown Woods

A monarch graced our "Phoenix Garden" next to the Herrontown Woods parking lot with its presence on a bright, sunny morning yesterday, July 13. It took an interest in the purple coneflowers transplanted into the garden this spring, and offered evidence of the importance of the garden for sustaining pollinators in Princeton through the summer months when forests offer few flowers.

The sighting prompted an internet search for the latest on the monarch's status, with one longtime monarch tracker, Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch, predicting that weather conditions this year are thus far allowing monarchs to rebound somewhat from the historic lows of recent years.

If you google "monarch butterflies" and then click on "news", you'll find lots of articles, for instance about efforts to create better habitat for them in Iowa. There's research on the impact of higher CO2 levels in the atmosphere on monarch's health, and Chip Taylor's detailed blog posts at MonarchWatch describe how higher temperatures can impact migration.

We don't yet have milkweed growing at the garden, but there are patches of common and purple milkweed in clearings near the Veblen House that can provide food for monarch larvae. Places where sun reaches the ground, whether in people's yards or at the Phoenix Garden (so-called because it's planted in the opening made after storms blew down the white pine plantation at Herrontown Woods) are critical for sustaining the summer flowers and milkweed that monarchs need to reproduce.

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