Category Archives: It’s Not Easy Being Green

Milkweed declining in Iowa cropland

Common milkweed was present in only 8% of Iowa corn and soybean fields in 2009 compared to 51% in 1999.

Reduction in common milkweed Asclepias syriaca occurrence in Iowa cropland frm 1999 to 2009.

Monarch butterfly

My childhod memories of Iowa are full of country roads glittering with butterflies and drifting milkweed seeds. It breaks my heart to know we are losing habitat for these natural pollinators.

Milkweed seed pod

I took this photo of a Milkweed seed pod in October of 2004 while on a visit with family in southeast Iowa. The occasion was a call for all hands to assist in the preparations for selling my grandparents home. It was the last visit I was to see my Grandpa Pete.

Milkweed is the sole food source for Monarch butterfly larvae. Toxins found in milkweed make the butterflies poisonous to many predators. Monarchs migrate annually long distances from north to south, but being insects instead of birds, it takes multiple generations to complete the round trip.

Toxins produced by human agriculture are now killing off the milkweed and Monarch butterflies. Like colony collapse disorder in bees, the loss of butterflies is linked to use of neonicotinoid pesticides and loss of native vegetation.

millions of acres of native plants, especially milkweed, an important source of nectar for many species, and vital for monarch butterfly larvae, have been wiped out.

The Year the Monarch Didn’t Appear –