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My Apologies to the Butterflies

Sep 03, 2010

This weekend I was on the tractor, combing my native grass and wildflower plantings for invasive plants like serecia lespedeza. I have made enough headway against the problem plant to just have a few single plants scattered around which I need to keep on top of. Not paying attention, I hit a thistle in full bloom with the rear tire and a cloud of swallowtail butterflies exploded around my head.

This caused me to stop long enough to actually "stop and smell the roses" or in this case the thistles. Looking about the field I noticed that every blooming plant was shrouded in butterflies. The morning mist with its lavender blooms was covered with small skippers no bigger than an inch long. The New England asters were being smothered in monarchs and of course every thistle in the field had at least two species of swallowtails hovering over it. So then I started driving and paying more attention to avoiding blooming plants than I did to spraying serecia. I was just missing too many serecia plants that needed sprayed. I did look around a couple of times to make sure the neighbors were not watching my zigzag escapades around the wildflowers, before I finally gave up and shut the tractor down and started to walk the field.

My original intent with my wildflower planting was to benefit bobwhite quail. My experience on the tractor this weekend brings home the fact that more species of wildlife benefit from the same habitat the quail need than any other type of terrestrial habitat in Missouri. When you add insects like pollinators to the mix, quail habitat is even more valuable.

Pollinators, including bees and butterflies, are thought to be in a decline similar to what quail and other grassland and shrubland birds are experiencing. Yet in the United States they are responsible for pollinating billions of dollars in crops and foods, including many of the plants in your garden.

Do something in the name of quail and it benefits pollinators. Do something for pollinators and it benefits all of us.

To learn more about how you can help pollinators visit the The Xerces Society website.


I'm really getting into bio-dynamic composting and the nastiest weeds make the best compost. Of course killing the plant by spray is fine, Digging up the nasties gets the soil open and lets you get more "greens" for the compost pile.

Mylene, Thanks for your post. I agree that indiscriminate spraying of pesticides can hurt pollinators, however herbicides like I use do not directly kill insects. With the targeted use of herbicides to kill the sericea, I now have the native wildflowers in the field that the butterflies and bees enjoy today. Without my use of herbicides, the sericea crowded every other plant out and there were no butterflies or quail.

Tonica, so many think that all thistles are noxious weeds like the musk thistle. However, the fall blooming thistles are pretty benign and add to the diversity of the plantings I have made for wildlife. thanks for your comment. Bill

While I understand the need to spray, it makes me sad that we have to do this and endanger all those beautiful butterflies, bees, quail ect. Too bad it is not more cost effective to walk around with a garden trowel and dig up the invasive weeds instead of spraying them. But thanks for planting native wildflowers for our nature friends to enjoy. Mylene Dunn

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