Real or Imagined? Is the Tiger Swallowtail Really Gone?

By, Jackie Mae

Sifting through the layers of Joe-Pye Weed—its stalks were upwards of eight feet high with a girth of approximately five feet wide. Where were they?

This enormous bush had varying heights of blossoms. They were purplish little balls that clung to the tops of the stalks, sturdy and strong. They beckoned the bees, moths, hummingbirds, and butterflies like bees to honey. I searched for him, once I knew he was missing—everywhere. I searched in the coneflowers, purple and pink, around the Rose of Sharon and Milkweed as well. No, he was not there. Maybe resting in the butterfly house or the butterfly puddle drinker, but he was not anywhere.

Not only was the Tiger Swallowtail gone, but the Monarch, Checkerspot, and Skippers were too. What was going on? Where once over 250 butterflies could be found resting and drinking in my garden, there was now only one in residence. I was actually frightened. How could this be? Was it a sign of something more disastrous to come? You know, how the animals seem to sense an impending earthquake days before it occurs. Was this somehow a natural occurrence of nature? I set out to find out.

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According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica in their article, “The Disappearance of Butterflies: Year in Review 2013”[1] two butterflies, the Rockland Grass Skipper and the Zestos Skipper from South Florida were most likely extinct.

The news got worse, according to Karen Oberhauser from the University of Minnesota; she puts a lot of the blame on Monsanto for herbicides such as Roundup being used across the U.S. and in Canada. Milkweed which is the Monarch’s primary food source, and one which could be found all across the U.S., has declined by as much as 80% in some places.[2] Combine this with a frost in Mexico that killed hundreds of Monarchs, to the ever increasing fallout from climate change, and you have a disaster of monumental proportions.

Will I have to share photos with my grandchildren to let them know how butterflies used to look? And… what is next on the food chain to go? There are bound to be ramifications. Why isn’t the populace doing something about it I silently screamed? Maybe the majority of people were like me, too busy with the insanity of global conflicts to notice that the butterflies were gone.

But, what can we do—you and me? There are any number of sites that you can look up by using your search engine tool to find local organizations that are raising awareness. Start your own group, use social media, plant native plants for your area, don’t use harsh chemicals (think before you spray), and help teach the little ones to be respectful and mindful of their environment, so working together we can all help these amazing and worth saving creatures.
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[1] http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1948718/The-Disappearance-of-Butterflies-Year-In-Review-2013#ref1186693

[2] http://rt.com/usa/monsanto-roundup-monarch-butterflies-483/

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