“Nature’s message was always there and for us to see. It was written on the wings of butterflies.”
~ Kjell B. Sandved, Norwegian publisher and photographer for the Smithsonian Institution and the National Museum of Natural History
Here in the foothills of the Crescenta Valley, summer conditions are pretty much as we expect for mid-July. Thankfully, Mother Nature has kept her hands off the thermostat. We’ve had a few hot days, but nothing considered a “heat wave,” i.e. several consecutive days of above average temperatures. Until that inevitable time, the great outdoors, or your own yard, is comfortable. It’s time to adjust sprinklers and, if needed, give those more vulnerable garden areas an extra drink from the garden hose.
Last Sunday I attended an interesting class put on by the Theodore Payne Foundation: “Planting a Butterfly Garden.” According to an assistant professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, the monarch butterfly population has been reduced by 90%. Twenty years ago, concentrations of billions of monarchs were visible from space, clinging to trunks and branches of trees in Mexico and California. What happened?
Monarchs suffer under drought and severe storms, two weather events becoming more common with climate change. The biggest risk to them with storms is freezing to death. Butterflies can survive temperatures down to about 17° F, if the cold is dry. But temperatures of about 25° F with rain often mean death. A single storm in 2002, for example, killed almost 80% of the monarch population. Loss of habitat and pesticide use affects the butterfly population. Insect populations in general are very erratic.
To protect them, plant native milkweed! Because it is native to California, it is drought-resistant and essential to the monarch. They lay their eggs, which become caterpillars, on this plant. With the magic of nature, baby monarch butterflies emerge! I have three plants and at any time butterflies can be seen coming and going. Starting tomorrow night, low clouds are expected to push well inland, spreading across all of the valleys, nearly reaching the western mountain slopes. This pattern is expected to continue through this week and into next. Temperatures will fall near to slightly below normal for today and into next week. An increase in monsoon moisture by Wednesday will likely bring thunderheads, i.e. cumulus nimbus clouds, over the mountains.
Our summer evening walks have been missing our beloved Abby. There may be a new pup in town soon!
Sue Kilpatrick is a Crescenta Valley
resident and Official Skywarn
Spotter for the National Weather Service. Reach her at email@example.com.