New York State IPM Program

April 25, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on The Monarchs Are Coming, Ready or Not.

The Monarchs Are Coming, Ready or Not.

Gorgeous in flight and gloriously colored, monarch butterflies are the glimmering icon of wild nature. As an endangered species, they’re also iconic of all we have to lose in a changing world.

And now it’s begun — the remaining monarchs’ first leg of an epic, multigenerational voyage from overwintering sites in Mexico. But are they too early?

Getting here takes food, and plenty of it. For monarchs streaming up the eastern flyway to summer in our gardens and wildlands, you want flowering plants that offer generous helpings of nectar, the butterfly equivalent of a protein shake with all the essential nutrients it needs. But you also need more: you need the one plant that protects monarchs from the animals that might eat them.

Swamp milkweed. Likes moisture in but tolerates sandy, dry soils and part shade. Fragrant and long-blooming. Its protective steroids are among the most potent any milkweed species has to offer. (Offers nectar, too.) Photo: Tom Potterfield, Flickr Creative Commons.

As for the nectar plants? All of us — farmers, gardeners, golf courses and park superintendents — can help, each in our own way, with plantings of nectar-rich plants that attract beneficial insects. And beneficial insects are one of the mainstays of good IPM.

But it’s milkweed alone with its protective toxins that the monarch butterfly lays its eggs on; that its caterpillars feed on. So of course, gardeners and golf-course or park superintendents will want to plant milkweed too. Many species are stately, short-lived perennials bearing fragrant flowers. (Farmers, you might — or not — have options for happily letting milkweed grow.)

Butterfly weed. It’s gorgeous, no getting around it. Tops out at two feet; does fine in droughty soils. Too bad this milkweed’s protective steroids tend to be in short supply. Photo: Beautifulcatava, Flickr Creative Commons.

Now … for that “too early?” part.

As we speak, monarchs seem to be moving north earlier than usual, supported by strong tailwinds. Yes, they’re finding some nectar sources — dandelions, for instance. (If you must mow now, mow high. Which you should do anyway if you practice good IPM.) But according to some reports (citizen scientists with Annenberg Learner’s Journey North and ecologist Chris Helzer’s Prairie Ecologist posts via The Nature Conservancy), monarchs seem to be looking for milkweed — and not finding it.

As of April 21, “Journey North” sightings have come in from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Ontario Canada … we’re surrounded!

 

Or if the butterflies find milkweed, it tends to be just a few inches high. Question is: can a six-inch-tall milkweed support six to eight larvae? Unknown.

A close look at the map and you know they’re on their way.

Good questions poised by a citizen scientist: can this milkweed plant grow fast enough to feed growing caterpillars?

Since scouting is another core tenet of IPM, be a good scout — and keep a sharp lookout for monarchs, milkweed, and monarch eggs. Three’s a charm!

March 23, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on IPM celebrates Earth Day — the countdown to April 22

IPM celebrates Earth Day — the countdown to April 22

By most measures it’s spring in the northern hemisphere. Technicalities count: regardless if you live in snowy Labrador City (pop. 9354; high of 15ºF) or greater Miami, Florida (pop. ~5.5 million and summery 76ºF), the vernal equinox marked the official start to spring.

Whether or not the weather concurs with your expectations, of course, depends on your point of view. (Here in New York, opinions are mixed.)

This Federally-endangered dragonfly is an indicator species — and indicates a healthy ecosystem. (Courtesy Xerces Society)

A month and two days later, scores of countries worldwide on six continents will celebrate Earth Day.

Issued in 2005: Even a tiny stamp can raise awareness of dwindling resources and the importance of living in harmony with nature. (Courtesy designer Chen Shaohua)

Our question to you — what does Earth Day mean for our homes and forests, our farms, lakes, and rivers? And how does IPM help?

Join the conversation via photos, Facebook, tweets — and ThinkIPM. After all, April 22 is just around the corner. Got good stories? Get in touch with Joellen Lampman at jkz6@cornell.edu.

Skip to toolbar