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August 2015 Newsletter

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Who lives in Milkweed Metropolis?

BugQuest campers learn about milkweed in our teaching garden, & get to meet the animals who call it home.
The Monarch butterfly was been termed the Bald Eagle of insect conservation. It's true they have a lot in common: they're both famous for their feats of strength (in the monarch's case, their impressive long-distance migration), they're both easily recognizable, and they are - or were - in decline. 

While the Bald Eagle is not so much in decline anymore, the Monarch population is still following a downward trend. The three lowest overwintering populations on record have been recorded in the last 10 years.

The Bald Eagle was not the only bird of prey to find itself in a drastic and sudden decline, but it was the Eagle that drew attention to a whole group of birds, and other animals, that were suffering from widespread application of DDT. Similarly, the Monarch shouldn't be viewed as a single species in decline in isolation from all other insects: it's the canary in the coal mine for others of its kind.

If one species is in peril, you can be sure there are probably many others also suffering - recall the food chains and ecosytem-web diagrams from high school biology classes? While these model are basic at best, they do make us aware of all the ripple effects of one species' decline. 

You've probably heard that the monarch is dependent on the milkweed plant (Asclepias sp.) for its survival. As a caterpillar, the monarch can only feed on the leaves of milkweed. The loss of milkweed habitat is thought to be a major factor in the decline of the monarch.

However, the Monarch is not the only one who calls milkweed home. Here are just a few other residents of Milkweed Metropolis:
Clockwise, starting from upper left: Long-horned Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetraophthalmus), Milkweed Leaf Beetle (Labidomera clivicollis), Small Milkweed Bug (Lygaeus kalmii) and Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillar (Euchaetes egle). All images from BugGuide.net
What happens to the rest of the animals who rely on the milkweed plant for survival? And what happens to the other animals who depend on those animals? Don't forget that we are one of those animals further up the food chain and consequently dependent on all the rest. 

You can make your garden a pollinator-friendly Monarch Waystation by planting milkweed and other plants. Join the nation-wide community of people endeavouring to create friendly, shared spaces with the other animals with which we share a planet.

If you pledge to help provide more habitat for the Monarch, it won't just be the butterfly that benefits: it will be all the other members of the milkweed community, and ultimately, our community. 

Butterfly of the Month 


While for most butterflies it's difficult to tell the males from females, you can tell at a glance with the Monarch (Danaus plexippus). When looking at the inside of the hindwings, look for a pair of black dots on each mid-vein: these specialized scales release a pheromone that the male uses to attract females. In the monarch world, it's the male who wears the perfume!

Monarch Rearing Kits still available!


Last chance to order your monarch rearing kit! Choose from a full or refill kit, order online, and come to pick it up Thursday Sept 10. You'll receive all you need to care for and raise your monarchs, including MonarchWatch tags to use when you're ready to release the butterflies. The kits also includes a packet of native milkweed seeds and instructions on how to create your own Milkweed Waystation.

Minerals Exhibit: Last Month


The amazing exhibit "Minerals: From Crystals to Gems" will be on exhibit until August 31. Be sure to check it out before it leaves town!

Monarch Tagging Weekend


Come celebrate the wonder of the monarch's migration season! Participate in citizen science research and watch hourly releases of Monarchs in the butterfly garden. September 12 & 13

Sept 16: Magical Monarchs


Our popular homeschool program will be resuming in September! Join us Wednesday morning on September 16 to learn all about monarchs. Use our new online registration form to pre-register for this event!
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