No, eagle-eyed Faithful Reader, you are right: Technically speaking, that’s not a monarch butterfly itself, but a facsimile of one that was part of a table centerpiece. But I learned much about this beautiful, elusive creature up at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York last Friday, at a luncheon held by its Bird, Tree and Garden (BTG) Club.
The kind of monarch caterpillar I saw as a kid is becoming far harder to find for today’s youngsters, I discovered at a presentation given at the luncheon. In fact, monarch butterfly populations have declined by nearly 90% over the last 20 years. A big reason for the decreae: herbicides that kill the milkweed plants on which this insect feeds in its annual migration, in late summer, from the U.S. and southern Canada down to Mexico.
Chautauqua will be doing its part to keep the monarch butterfly alive, becoming for the insect a giant habitat—a provider of resources where it can reproduce and migrate. It is hoped that waystations will be located all over the grounds by the start of next season for this purpose.