Saving the Monarch butterfly (Editorial)

(May 1, 2017) The creation of acres and acres of what is known as pollinator habitat — where bees can get their fill — has been receiving a lot of chatter in the press recently.
Fields of flowers are envisioned around and under sprawling utility scale solar installations, both inviting the bees and, in a way, softening the harshness of the solar panel presentations across what were formerly farm fields.
Now it’s the turn of the Monarch butterfly, as ag chemical giant BASF has unveiled a project, which it calls “The Living Acres Monarch Challenge” that empowers farmers to create habitat for the Monarch butterfly.
In so doing, BASF says, farmers could become known — and applauded — as “heroes in the life of the Monarch butterfly.”
The Monarchs, BASF notes, have begun their yearly migration in the face of a dwindling habitat.
The BASF Living Acres Monarch Challenge will help farmers build the habitat Monarchs need to make their way north by supplying them with a vital sidekick — milkweed.
“Milkweed is critical to the Monarch throughout its lifecycle, but can be difficult to grow,” said Laura Vance, biology project leader for BASF. “The Living Acres Monarch Challenge is a program that helps farmers create more milkweed habitat alongside their production acres to increase the Monarch population.”
The first 500 farmers to join the Monarch Challenge at will receive 18 butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) seedlings and a guidebook to help them create this important habitat.
Vance said “Planting milkweed seedlings is one of the easiest ways to start a habitat that will sustain itself for years to come.”
As Vance explained, milkweed is critical for Monarchs.
“The leaves are the only food source for Monarch caterpillars. It is where the adults lay their eggs and the blossoms provide food for migrating adults.”
BASF developed its biodiversity program, Living Acres, in 2015 with the initial goal of helping to restore the Monarch population.
Through the project, BASF researches the most efficient way to grow milkweed alongside high production agriculture.
“Farmers can use their growing skills to become monarch butterfly heroes,” Vance said.
Farmers can join the Monarch challenge on the BASF Living Acres Facebook page or by visiting
The BASF project is to be applauded. Nursery owners say that because of factors, such as suburbanization and Roundup-Ready crops, there’s a lot less milkweed than there was in the past.
That, they claim, is “a disaster” for Monarchs since Monarch caterpillars can eat nothing but milkweed.
According to milkweed growers, The Living Acres project also responds to the fact that it’s sometimes difficult to find milkweed for sale or at least to find them for sale at an affordable enough price to buy more than just a few.
Spotting a Monarch in the backyard or in the park is always a treat and a delight. Some farmers might enjoy joining the Living Acres Challenge.