Milkweed and monarchs

Published 7:29 am Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Margaret Watson Bird Club will have a meeting Feb. 7 at the Barbara Rose Johns Community Library in Farmville. Refreshments will be served at 6:30 p.m. and the program begins at 7 p.m. Take a peek into the life of Monarch butterflies and their host plant, milkweed. You won’t believe what’s out there, right under your nose.

For those who love theater and drama and fascinating characters, the milkweed community will not disappoint.

In early spring, as milkweed pokes its head up into the fields, the setting of the stage begins. Within a month or so the buds are forming and shortly thereafter a profusion of beautiful blooms top the plant and exudes a thick, sweet, intoxicating fragrance. Butterflies are drawn from all around to dance on this stage. The music of bees sipping nectar steadily grows, as they are attracted to the milkweed blooms.

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As the season progresses, the stage grows and the characters increase … there’s little comedy, but plenty of tragedy. The stage is filled with herbivores, nectivores, carnivores, predators, prey, parasites, scavengers and an occasional passerby. Amidst all of this complexity one often finds Monarch larvae, which feed and reproduce exclusively on the milkweed plant. The success of the life cycle of this beautiful butterfly is hinged upon the availability of healthy milkweed plants along its migratory pathway, as well as the protection of specific trees in its overwintering grounds in Mexico.

JoAnn Jones has been investigating, photographing, and documenting the life cycles of Milkweed and Monarchs for a number of years. She is always awed by the wonders of nature and enjoys sharing her observations with others.