By Suellen Reitz
Pickens County Master Gardener
Spring is such a beautiful season of the year here in Pickens County. Flowers are beginning to display their full splendor in color. And with the flowers, we see butterflies. Here in Georgia, there are over 160 different varieties of these winged beauties, but the one most easily recognized and studied because of it’s unique migratory path across North America is the monarch.
One of the largest butterflies with a wing span of more than 3.5 inches, the monarch is considered by many to also be the most beautiful sporting regal colors of gold, yellow, orange and red with boarders of black and white dots. The “king” of butterflies… hence its name. Have you seen them lately? Perhaps, not as much as you once did.
Unlike other butterflies that can overwinter as larvae, pupae, or even as adults in some species, monarchs are unable to survive the cold winters of northern climates. It is the only butterfly known to make a two-way migration like birds. Some fly as far as 3,000 miles from as far north as eastern Canada to reach their winter home in Mexico’s mountainous fir forests from October to late March. The spring migration return home can last as long as June for those in the furthest northern regions. Those monarchs you see in the western regions of North America migrate to southern California. The wintering monarch’s lifespan is up to nine months, but those returning in early spring have up to four generations before completing their journey.
Since 1990, nearly 90% of the monarch population has been lost due to pesticides, habitat loss, loss of milkweed, and climate change. Thousands of acres across North America which once offered refuge for the monarch are converted to developments daily. Locations once prevalent with milkweed plants, essential for the growth cycle of the butterfly, are disappearing. But there is good news for butterfly lovers of Pickens… we can help make a difference.
Come hear monarch expert Susan Meyers, an active volunteer and speaker with Monarchs Across Georgia explain the plight of the monarch and what can be done to bring back this majestic butterfly on May 11 at the Pickens County Extension Office located at 502 Stegall Dr. Sponsored by Pickens County Master Gardeners, the informative symposium titled “Monarchs and Milkweeds Across Georgia” will offer valuable information on the history and fascinating facts about the monarchs; how to increase the population in your own backyard; landscape design ideas on incorporating the favorite plants of monarchs into your gardens; and the dangers of pesticides most people don’t know.
Fantastic door prizes will be offered to lucky participants and limited numbers of hard to find pesticide free milkweed plants will be available for a nominal fee. Enjoy delicious refreshments with your fellow plant lovers while you learn how to make a difference in protecting and enhancing the monarch population.
Mark your calendar now and bring a friend to the “Monarchs and Milkweeds Across Georgia” Symposium… May 11, 1-3 at Pickens Extension Office. This is an event you don’t want to miss. For more information, call the Extension Service at 706-253-8840.