Mention the word butterfly, and nearly everyone will pull up a mental image of the distinctive orange and black wings of the beautiful Monarch. Schoolchildren for years have chased after these colorful insects flitting across backyards and public parks. Future generations of children may have to rely on YouTube.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Monarch Butterfly population has declined by more than 95% since 1996. The leading culprit in this massive die-off: our good old friend Mr. Glyphosate. You know Mr. Glyphosate. That’s the leading weed-killer used on farms and lawns across the United States. In fact, glyphosate is so popular that the most corn and soybean varieties planted today have been genetically modified so that famers can spray glyphosate to kill weeds anytime without harming their main cash crop.
But, oops, all of this glyphosate has been killing off milkweed all across the country. And that’s a problem for Monarchs. Even though these butterflies look complex, their diet is very mundane. It begins and ends with milkweed. That’s it. Without milkweed, there are no Monarchs.
To save the Monarchs, wildlife conservationists have enlisted teachers and schoolchildren to plant patches of milkweed to create a network of “diners” to sustain these beautiful insects during their annual migration from Mexico to Canada.
That’s a start, and certainly an important step. But the students’ battle won’t fully succeed until we reduce or eliminate the use of glyphosate and other toxic herbicides. And, the best way to help reduce the use of glyphosate is to buy organic food products. After all, organic farmers are positively, absolutely prohibited from using glyphosate. Period.
So, the next time you throw a certified organic food item into your shopping basket, think of it as playing your part in planting a little patch of milkweed.