April 20th, 2014, and 18 million Americans wait. Additional tens of millions of naturalists and esthetes around the world wait, too. They wait to see if this beautiful moment will again be seen in fields and flowery margins from the Rocky Mountains east to the Atlantic coast. Will Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) return from Mexico and decorate flowerheads, like these Wild Bergamots (Monarda fistulosa)?
My estimates may be too low. Almost every American child learns about the incredible migration of Monarch generations from the mountains of central Mexico to Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, New York, Connecticut and Maine. When their schoolteachers assure that these seemingly delicate butterflies actually do make the trips, children internalize a lesson: Determination and sticking to the task lead to reward and success.
Critical trees continue to be illegally and legally cut on those Mexican mountains, genetically modified crops and other agricultural initiatives that reduce the milkweed plants that Monarch caterpillars require, and untimely frosts and storms during the migration north all jeopardize the Monarchs of 2014.
I will also add Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) to my own garden, adding to the millions of gardeners in the USA who are planting them to support Monarchs.
I just have to believe that they will return, and flourish, and return back to Mexico in September…and savor that moment, when at Raccoon Creek State Park I turn my head and Yes! A Monarch!!