Quick, go look out your window! The fourth generation of monarch butterflies have emerged and they are feeding all over Dallas. This last generation of monarchs (for the year) are feeding heavily in preparation for their upcoming extensive migration. These small butterflies are about to fly farther than most of us travel in a year!
The monarch life cycle is unique and starts with eggs laid by adult butterflies that overwintered in Mexico or southern California. The first generation migrate north laying eggs along the way. The short lived second and third generations lay eggs across North America all the way up to Canada and the eastern U.S. The fourth generation eggs emerge as adults in September and October and live the longest of all the generations, about 6-8 months. These fourth generation monarchs migrate thousands of miles south to warmer environments to over winter. Dallas and the surrounding areas are important “fill up” stops for these long distance travelers.
Monarchs feed on nectar from flowers, preferring native prairie flowers, including a variety of milkweed plants. As important pollinators, while feeding on nectar, monarchs and other insects are also providing the plants a service. The destruction of our native prairie systems, in favor of agriculture and urban environments that include roads, houses and buildings, is one of the reasons there has been a sharp decline in pollinator species.
One local nonprofit is starting an international movement to help sustain our ecosystems, provide a food source for pollinators and restore natural habitats. The Great Seed Bomb (greatseedbomb.org) hosted their first bike ride seed bomb in the fall of 2015 and have quickly gained national attention. During the 15-mile family friendly bike rides, participants throw seed balls made of clay, organic compost and native non-GMO milkweed and wildflower seeds. In the spring, these seed balls bloom, leaving a lasting impact on the environment that supports pollinators of all kinds.
The Great Seed Bomb’s next ride is coming up on Nov. 5 in Fort Worth at the Clear Fork Nature Trail. Plan on buying a ticket and joining for a fun Saturday afternoon tossing seed bombs and learning. Along the slow cruiser-friendly ride, there are stations from various area nonprofits sharing information and activities about local prairies and pollinators.
Monarch butterfly populations have declined by 90 percent in the last 20 years, but they aren’t the only pollinator in decline. Native bees and honey bees have seen sharp declines in the last few years as well. The U.S. National Agricultural Statistics reported a 60 percent honey bee decline from about 6 million hives in 1947 to 2.4 million hives in 2008. Habitat conversion to agriculture and the use of pesticides such as Roundup are found to be a major cause of these sharp pollinator number declines.
The Great Seed Bomb founder, Jillian Jordan, started these bike ride events to take action to protect our pollinators and give others the opportunity to do the same. “Providing native habitat can offset habitat fragmentation and give bees and monarchs and other pollinators nectar sources as well as milkweed, which provides monarchs a place they need to breed and lay their eggs,” Jordan said. Fifty percent of the money raised for this event will also support the Native Prairie Association of Texas.
If you can’t make the fun bike ride this November, no worries. You have options. You can donate to the Great Seed Bomb at Generosity.com crowdfunding (http://bit.ly/2bJ4CFc). Jordan is working to activate more seed bomb events around the North Texas area, with an event in Dallas next April, as well as create a digital playbook. This playbook will serve as an open source guide used by organizations around the world to replicate seed bomb events in their local communities.
Take some time to enjoy the beautiful monarchs flying all over Dallas currently and tune up your bikes to do your part to support them.
As seen in the Katy Trail Weekly.