Wing Beats of Hope – Monarchs and their gift to us and all the earth 

Linda Gregg CSJ

At Villa St. Joseph in Cobourg we would always look forward to the arrival of the Monarchs in late summer and early fall. Their orange and black wings, exquisitely patterned, would be everywhere. If you walked near the Mountain Ash tree by the verandah the branches would suddenly flutter alive in a breathtaking dance of winged beauty and dazzling life.  Each year their numbers have been dwindling and we have had the sense something was deeply out of balance. 

The recent Mexican postings reveal that the forest hibernation colonies have once again sharply decreased. There remain only nine hibernating colonies. Last year there was a total area of 7.4 acres and this year it dropped to 2.94 acres. This is a 59% decrease in population in one year. In 1997 there were 44 acres of colonies.

Why is all this happening?    As you might imagine, humans have something to do with this. The dramatic drop in their numbers is due to the decrease in milkweed plants, the Monarchs main food source. Deforestation and urbanization have been significantly altered habitats. But the most critical is that of HT (Herbicide Tolerant) crops such as the GMO corn and soybean crops which are sown with weed killer in their genes. Without these, there was adequate room for milkweeds to pop up here and there in cultivated fields, providing nourishment for the Monarchs on their migratory route. But in the last 17 years there has been an incredible boost in corn and soybean acreage due to the increased prices for both corn and soybeans in Canada and the U.S. Ethanol production from corn has given farmers high prices for a crop that before didn’t provide much income. Deforestation and illegal logging in Mexico have also destroyed the site of many hibernation colonies.

Why does it matter?   Monarchs lead the most spectacular and incredible migration journey of any species, traversing thousands of kilometres navigating territory they have never seen. These iconic butterflies are key pollinators for many species besides milkweeds. And as the same habitats for monarchs, are essential for other pollinators, they are fragile prophets we need to heed. Without pollinators our own food sources will come under risk. What can we do?

Ministry of Learning & Action :   

Monarch Waystations:   At Villa St. Joseph Ecology Centre we have left significant parts of our fields uncut to preserve the milkweeds for the nurture of monarchs .We are now a designated Monarch Waystation with signage, bearing witness. But anyone can create a designated Waystation, in a backyard, a congregational home, a church. There are lots of other plants that provide sustenance for monarchs. Check out:

Ministry of Prayer & Presence:  Our thoughts and prayers a have a special energy of the spirit that can lift the fragile wings of this butterfly and so many other species. Minds and hearts need conversion, to the sanctity of all life. Let us pray wing beats of hope!