Canyon Lake residents Ted and Nancy Horton will be presenting a program on monarch butterflies on Mar. 11 at 3 p.m. at the Canyon Lake Library.
Ted is a board member of Audubon International and has been concerned about the loss of 70 to 80 percent of monarchs in the last 10 years due to development and loss of habitat. With a little effort, he believes that the chances of monarchs returning to Canyon Lake on their migratory path can be improved. This is a free program for families with a focus on children.
The program will consist of a slideshow and video on the life cycle of the monarch butterfly, and the work that Ted has done to plant butterfly weed in his own garden. Within a day or two of planting ten plants last spring, caterpillars appeared, devoured the plants, and forced Ted to buy more plants to feed the caterpillars. There was only one cocoon, but the rate is about one in ten cocoons for each caterpillar. “It is fun for kids to see the caterpillars at work and to see the cocoons,” said Ted. “ It is possible to watch a monarch emerge from the cocoon and fly away. It is delightful to have monarchs flying around the garden.”
Each family who attends the program will receive a butterfly plant to take home and plant. Ted will provide instruction on how to plant them. Each family also will receive a coloring book produced by Audubon International.
Ted and Nancy became intrigued with the monarch butterflies since visiting the pine groves in Pacific Grove, California, when they lived in Monterey during the 1990s. At certain times of the year, the trees were aglitter with fluttering butterflies, resting during their migratory travels along the Pacific flyway.
Ted is making his own plans to help create a butterfly-friendly habitat in his backyard and urges other Canyon Lake residents to do the same. At this time, only a couple of species of Milkweed are acclimated to Southern California weather. Fortunately, they can be ordered from various nurseries in five-inch potted plants. The plants require well-prepared garden soils.
For the hardy gardeners, and for larger areas, seed can be used to establish the plants, but often require two to three years of tedious and patient gardening to flourish. Ted will be placing some of these potted plants in his garden and even perhaps in the rough of the Canyon Lake Golf Course to accompany purple and yellow flowering plants that are attractive food sources for butterflies.
When asked how Canyon Lake residents could join in the process, Ted suggests a possible long-term project: “Together we can develop patches of appropriate habitat, flowering plants for nectar and Milkweed for egg hatching sites. We can work together to manage larger, open space habitat that could be adapted to appropriate plantings for the monarch butterfly and other pollinators.”
Until this can be put into place, Ted has a suggestion for immediate participation by Canyon Lakers: “Plant a few Milkweed plants in your garden to see what happens. I wonder how many plants it will take to make a tiny difference. Imagine if we all had just a few plants, would it add up?”