The Butterfly Effect

Love a Weed Today for Tomorrow

Monarch Butterfly Drops In On Migration

Ruth's grandson, Charlie Walker, holds a Monarch butterfly. Photo by Elyse Baughman of Lubbock, Texas

Last month, a monarch butterfly dropped by my grandsons’ yard in Texas. The  family was delighted and our daughter-in-law took dozens of pictures. Half-joking, I announced that this visitor could be a butterfly from Canada. “Monarchs migrate south,” I said. “It could have come from around our cabin.”

Maybe that butterfly did come from Canada  – maybe it was migrating to Mexico from the Haliburton Highlands. But why was I so delighted to see this beautiful insect? Because I missed them.

When I was a kid, monarch butterflies were a common sight in Toronto area suburbs. Not so much now, and that absence may be traced to urban ‘tidiness’. Monarch larvae eat milkweed plants. Their one-note diet fills them with toxins and is their defence; no bird will eat a poisonous snack.

But when homeowners don’t want milkweeds in their gardens – or their parks, or along the roadsides and creeks –  they remove the food source for this picky eater. If a natural habitat means more to you than manicured lawns and cultivated parklands, pay attention to your local environment.

The hardy milkweed can find a home along the banks of lakes, ponds and waterways, as well as in forest margins, roadsides and waste places. The Haliburton Highlands is rich with this diverse landscape – and as long as we keep it that way, we won’t need to do much to support milkweed plants. Monarch butterflies will thank you each summer with a show of their striking orange and black wings.

And my Texan grandsons? They will thank you too.

Ruth E. Walker is an award-winning Ontario writer and has a cabin tucked between the Burnt and Drag Rivers in Haliburton. She is an active member of the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust.

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