Good Friday Morning Everyone,
It's funny the things that you learn as you grow older. When I was a kid, one of my jobs around the farm was to cut out milkweeds in the hayfields around the house - the milkweed could mess up the hay, and poison the animals that were fed it. This led to me thinking for a long time that milkweed was "bad", and didn't serve much of a purpose. It also seemed to be terribly common when I was doing this job - I never lacked for work while doing this.
As I got older, I started hearing that monarch butterflies are on the decline, and that some of the cause may be agricultural conflicts - people cutting out the milkweed on farms and fields, and it not getting planted in other places. I also started to notice that I wasn't seeing it "around" the way I did when I was younger. It wasn't growing in the ditchlines or in the unmowed lawns of old houses the way I remember. This is a big problem for these guys, as monarchs feed exclusively on milkweed when they are in the early stages of their development.
This guy inspired me, taken in the top of Canaan Valley last week. This single plant had 3 caterpillars on it - and there weren't many other plants around. Even up in the valley, I wasn't finding as many as I expected.
So, I found myself shopping for milkweed seeds today, and with a little luck, I'll have a little milkweed flower garden out beside the house next year. I'm not feeding cattle so much these days, so maybe I can feed a few monarchs on their way through town.
Monarchs Munching Milkweed - West Virginia