With the striking contrast of orange, white and black, the Monarch butterfly is considered by many, the most beautiful of all the butterflies. It also happens to be one of the most common butterflies in North America. However, the existence of Monarch butterflies is being threatened. The increased use of herbicides and urban sprawl have led to a decline in milkweed plants; the natural habitat for Monarch butterflies.
The Milkweed plant is often referred to as “just a weed”; however to the Monarch butterfly, it is a home, a source of food, and a way of life. With the increasing number of farmers using herbicides to control weeds within their crops, milkweed plants have seen a serious decline. Although, the Monarch butterfly is not yet considered endangered, it is listed as a species of special concern.
What can we do to help save the Monarchs? The answer is quite simple. Save the milkweed plants. This may be easier said than done, but with the efforts of many people, across several states, Monarch Flyway has found a way to do just that. Milkweeds are perennial plants, but their seeds have a very low survival rate when dispersed and spread naturally. By creating a Milkweed Pod Collection Program, Monarch Flyway was able to not only preserve Milkweed Plants for Monarch habitat, but they were able to provide milkweed seeds to be planted.
Maxcine Fischer (89), from Kinde, Michigan was one of the first on board to help with the Monarch preservation project. She, along with her family have made picking milkweed pods a family affair. For six weeks in September and October, the Fischer family is out in the fields from sun up to sundown, filling bags with milkweed pods. Pod picking is not an easy task, and it certainly comes with a few scratches, bumps and bruises, but Maxcine doesn’t let that stop her. She has always enjoyed the outdoors, a passion she has shared with her eight children, nineteen grandchildren, twenty-nine great grandchildren, and her one great great grandchild. The quality bonding time the family receives from pod picking, as well as the calming atmosphere has significantly outweighed the scratches…. And maybe the occasional snake. Maxcine’s hard work ethic is evident in her willingness to walk the uneven ground, braving critter holes and spiders while filling her bag. She says some people have complained that it’s hard work, but she’s used to working outside and doesn’t mind. When she needs a rest, she will sit in the goldenrod for a bit. Maxcine has a mantra she often states, “There’s nothing you can’t do; either you haven’t tried long enough or hard enough.” I think we could all take a lesson from her. Many accomplishments do not happen overnight, and they certainly do not happen without a lot of effort and time put in.
Protecting and restoring wild milkweed stands in the United States and Canada is the only way to save the magnificent Monarch Migration. The Fischer family knows that by harvesting milkweed pods, they are helping restore wild milkweed stands and preserve these natural habitats.
Besides, being able to provide seeds to continue to plant more milkweed for the Monarchs, the pod collection is used to produce milkweed balm; a topical cream filled with antioxidants, Omega 3 & 7 Fatty Acids, magnesium, calcium, zinc, manganese, sterols and phytonutrients. Milkweed Balm's soothing characteristics have helped people feel good about what they are putting on their skin.
Monarch Flyway has worked hard to create a win-win-win strategy with their pod collection program. It has been an important mission to ensure that each collection site does not have to front any costs. Monarch Flyway is adamant about paying for the shipping, the collection bags, and the pounds upon pounds of pods. Their goal is to help families fight poverty while saving the monarchs. In return, Monarch Flyway receives enough product to make their famous Milkweed Balm for many to enjoy! There is a beauty in the world, sometimes it happens naturally and other times, beauty is revealed by the good in people.
When we save milkweed plants, we protect monarch habitat, help people connect with nature, and give an economical boost to rural communities.