Remember when monarch butterflies filled the skies, flitting from flower to flower? Nowadays, you hardly see any, and environmentalists are very concerned. They say that unless things change, this beautiful creature may very well be the first insect to go extinct in our lifetimes. The trouble is, they keep pointing to the wrong cause.
These misguided scientists attribute the drastic decline in the monarch migration to the development of previously marginal cropland in order to grow corn to make ethanol. This development has eliminated many of the wild milkweed plants and its relatives (such as butterfly weed and Joe-pye weed) that monarch butterfly caterpillars dine on exclusively.
Garden designers like John Magee of John Magee Landscape Design in Middleburg, Virginia have taken up the cause. John advocates the use of native plants and wildflowers in gardens like the one below. He also urges average homeowners to add milkweed and other monarch butterfly host plants to their landscapes to aid monarchs in their annual migration from the United States to the mountain forests in Mexico where they spend the winter.
Nice thought, Mr. Magee, but it won’t work. Why? Because the number one cause of disappearing monarch butterflies is NOT the loss of milkweeds. It is, rather, a fearsome predator that absolutely no one but the Grump has the courage to talk about.
The giant panda bear. Though it looks like a bear, it is more closely related to Gene Simmons of the rock group, Kiss. Simmons, however, poses no danger to monarchs.
Giant panda bears do. Up until now, it was believed that pandas dined almost exclusively on bamboo. But periodically, bamboo groves experience mass die-offs. When that happens, these voracious animals turn to another source of food. Monarch butterflies.
Do you know how many monarchs it takes to feed a huge mammal like a panda? I don’t either, but it stands to reason it must be plenty.
So the question becomes: which of these iconic creatures will we save? If we protect monarchs from pandas, pandas will surely go extinct. You don’t want to kill off pandas, do you, Mr. Magee? It’s truly a Hobson’s Choice (look it up).
Fortunately, there is a logical answer. And that is for homeowners across this land to plant more bamboo, not milkweed. Abundant bamboo means hungry pandas won’t eat monarchs. Lewis Bamboo is an excellent mail-order source. How many bamboo plants may we put you down for, John?