“After a ten-fold drop in the population of the eastern monarch butterfly population over the last decade, a 2016 study predicted an 11%–57% probability that this population will go quasi-extinct over the next 20 years.” Wikipedia
Monarch butterflies used to be so plentiful. I would see them as a child living in the Midwest and study the way they emerge from their chrysalis in school. The Fall breeze was always full of milkweed seeds floating by. Their habitat was ubiquitous – all that open field land hosted several species of milkweed, the Butterfly Plant. When we moved to California where I went to High School, I would see Monarchs by the thousands at Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz hanging in great clusters on the eucalyptus trees. Then I moved back to the Midwest and noticed how quickly all that open field land, the prairies, was being developed into shopping malls, parking lots and subdivisions. Here in Milwaukee, we had a Monarch Trail on the County Grounds where there was about 350 acres of open land. Then the city decided to put in a “research park” – meaning technical buildings and apartments – and reduced the Monarch habitat to 11 acres adjacent to the interstate that’s been under construction for 2 years…so far. Once a common insect, the Monarch Butterfly is becoming increasingly rare on the landscape. The life of this wonder includes the amazing feat of migration, which is also being threatened by climate change.
The age of Kings is just about over, as the modern world encroaches more and more on his kingdom. I found this one at George W. Mead State Wildlife Area during the weekend of Independence Day.
I wish you a long life and numerous progeny, Little Prince.
This is a story of urban development. This picture was taken from the Milwaukee County Grounds about 2 years ago. This land surrounds the abandoned Poor Farm and Insane Asylum that I wrote about in this post. The area to the south and west of those abandoned buildings was identified as a migratory monarch butterfly trail and maintained by a local group who call themselves The Park People. In the last 9 months, this area has been raked over by bulldozers, trees cut down, and the habitat reduced from 239 acres (in 2005) to just 11 acres…which may never recover from the disturbance and resemble this photo again. The construction project was undertaken in order to create “Innovation Park”, UW Milwaukee’s research accelerator and business campus. In addition to this construction, the freeway you see in the background has been re-routed and upgraded to accommodate more traffic. Massive construction vehicles – earth movers, tree destroyers, and jack-hammers – can be heard around the clock from my bedroom window. This had been the largest green space in the county for many years, and I counted myself lucky to be within walking distance from it. But the life of the street, of urban expansion, has depleted the life of the wild and taken over its habitat. In the words of a famous song, “We’ve paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.” The metamorphosis on display now is not the caterpillar changing into a butterfly. It’s Caterpillar Construction Company changing green space into concrete and steel. Try telling that one to the school children when they start their first grade science class.