GREENVILLE – Perhaps there is no more easily recognized iconic beauty as the Monarch butterfly. The large striking orange and black insect was once a familiar sight on warm summer days throughout the Midwest. Due to habitat loss and other factors, Monarch butterfly numbers have declined drastically over the past 20 years.
In response, a global campaign to save this butterfly from extinction has ensued. Organizations have developed partnerships in 3 countries, including Canada, the United States and Mexico, in a combined effort to preserve and create habitat. One key component to increasing the Monarch’s population is milkweed. Without milkweed, the butterfly will not survive. It is the only plant on which a female Monarch will lay her eggs. Within a few days, the egg hatches into a hungry caterpillar that will devour its host plant in less than three weeks.
The chemical compounds found in milkweed not only make the Monarch distasteful, they actually become poisonous to predators looking for an easy meal. The Monarch and milkweed symbiotic relationship is something to marvel. Further investigation into the milkweed community reveals an entire ecosystem of dependent organisms. From dragonflies to beetles, the milkweed plant attracts an enormous variety of beneficial insects.
Darke County Parks invites you to take a closer look at the milkweed community on Saturday, June 29 at 2 p.m. at Shawnee Prairie Preserve. For more information about this or any other Darke County Park program, contact them at 937-548-0165 or [email protected].