Two items this week on the topic of providing necessary habitat for insects in urban settings: Monarchs reappear in Portland, reinforce need for milkweed and Oslo creates world’s first ‘highway’ to protect endangered bees.
In Portland, where monarchs are rarely seen, some evidence that if you plant the right milkweed, the butterflies will find it and take advantage:
Experts say Portlanders shouldn’t bother planting milkweed – the monarch butterflies won’t come. But one woman found 30 eggs on her two plants this month, and she’s urging others: “If you plant it, they will come.”
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Patti Farris, 58, incorporated milkweeds in front of her house three years ago. She hoped monarchs would appear, but didn’t exactly expect it.
On June 4, she noticed a butterfly circling her plants. Generally a monarch will lay one or two eggs per plant. This one laid 30 between two.
Tom Landis, a retired nursery specialist from the U.S. Forest Service, called this unusual.
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Using his knowledge of native plants, the Medford resident said he began growing milkweed and raising monarch caterpillars. He now travels all over the region and gives workshops on caring for the plants and bugs.
Landis said he considered leading a workshop in Portland, but local experts told him it was a lost cause.
Farris found Landis online, and taking Landis’ warning about the low survival rate of eggs to adult (5%), Farris took in the leaves with eggs, raising the caterpillars in an enclosure (and keeping them well-supplied with milkweed) to keep them from becoming dinner for something else. As of the article’s publication, it sounds like they’re now pupating, and getting close to emerging as butterflies, possibly to return next year to the milkweed they grew up on.
There have been several other monarch sightings in the northwest recently, which has surprised people – loss of milkweed in this region has, of course, meant a major decrease in the monarch population here. But apparently it doesn’t take much to encourage them! (Plant more native milkweed!)
The city of Oslo is taking a city-sized approach to helping out bees, by creating a series of green spaces filled with habitat and food:
“We are constantly reshaping our environment to meet our needs, forgetting that other species also live in it,” Agnes Lyche Melvaer, head of the Bybi, an environmental group supporting urban bees, which is leading the project.
“To correct that we need to return places to them to live and feed,” she explained, sitting on a bench in a lush city centre square bursting with early Nordic summer growth.
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Oslo’s “bee highway” aims to give the insects a safe passage through the city, lined with relays providing food and shelter – the first such system in the world, according to the organisers.
Government groups, private companies, and individuals are among the people working to create the bee highway, which includes replacing some areas of grass with flowers, increasing green roofs, as well as adding bee hives in some areas.
The mass destruction of bee populations around the world has already forced farmers in the Chinese province of Sichuan to pollinate plants by hand, and in the US some farmers are left with no choice but to rent hives transported cross-country by truck to pollinate crops.
But in Abel’s Garden in Oslo, Agnes Lyche Melvaer says she has faith in the “butterfly effect”.
“If we manage to solve a global problem locally it’s conceivable that this local solution will work elsewhere too.”