I must admit, it seems like in 21st century America there is a "War" on everything; the "War on Women", the "War on Christians", the "War on Black Males". Personally, I think "The War on . . ." phrase is over used and frequently unwarranted. However, if we are going to continue declaring war on everything, I think a case can be made for the War on Monarchs.
In the past week I have read two news articles of homeowners trying to create butterfly habitat in their home landscapes just to have township trustees and homeowner associations destroy the effort. In one case, township trustees argued a woman was creating a nuisance property by converting her lawn into meadow. She even had her meadow certified as Backyard Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation, however the trustees insisted that there was no way to differentiate her property from a nuisance property. I guess nuisance property owners also go out of their way to earn habitat designations!
In another case a gentleman planted milkweed in his flower beds to support the local monarch population. The HOA demanded the milkweed be removed because it was too tall. He pointed out that his neighbor's yard had tall perennials as well. "But those are garden plants, not weeds," he was told by the authorities.
The other day I stopped at the local "Park and Ride" to check out the plants growing there, looking for butterfly host and nectar plants that I might be able to secure seed from later in the year. What I found upon my arrival was that nearly the entire bank above the parking lot had been mowed. I also found that a random strip had been mowed behind the guard rail that separated the parking lot from a nearby stream.
I examined a milkweed that had been blessed by being just out of reach of the spinning blades of destruction to find a half-inch long monarch caterpillar. This little guy became monarch caterpillar #41 in our "nursery" at Butterfly Ridge. Only the good Lord knows how many monarch caterpillars were chopped to bits by this senseless act of destruction.
We like to lay the blame for the demise of the monarch on the shoulders of agribusiness, which in large part is justified. However, a significant part of the blame belongs on the shoulders of a culture that thinks roadsides, home landscapes, and other random places MUST be manicured in a putting green fashion. At a time when the monarch butterfly, the only butterfly that a majority of the American human population can actually identify, has population numbers in free fall, we are killing them and their habitat in the name of "neatness"?
We do not need a Fish and Wildlife petition. We need an education program. We need television commercials with tears dripping out of caterpillar eyes as the spinning blades approach. We need milkweed being sold at every farmer's market in America. We need the monarch to be designated as the National Butterfly of the United States. We need kindergartners practicing their coloring with monarch butterfly life cycle coloring pages. We need to get busy.