Who Speaks for the Bugs? Week Ending 6/16/2019

I know I already mentioned this podcast by Chris Martenson titled Living with Integrity.

I was struck, not just by the analogy of eating spoonfuls of oil, but his observations about dramatic declines in insect and bird life in his area. It made me reflect on how unaware I am of what’s “normal” here in central MD. I’ve never paid attention to birds and bugs before, beyond railing against Japanese beetles killing my plants…

Japanese beetle laying waste to crops
Japanese beetle laying waste to crops

…and the cardinals destroying my blueberries.

Blueberry damaged by a sharp beak
Blueberry damaged by a sharp beak

Then just a few days later, I read Chapter 10: The Myth of Nature from 33 Myths of the System. All of Darren Allen’s writing is powerful, and this was no exception. But I was surprised by the claim of 75% of insect life gone.

Seventy five percent? Really?

Today I was rummaging through the milkweed in the farmer’s field across the street. Good news! I actually have permission to forage here now, and the farmer hasn’t yet mowed. I am hunting for milkweed buds to eat as vegetables, and some milkweed flowers for a batch of liqueur.

Milkweed flowers for liqueur
Milkweed flowers for liqueur

Harvesting the flower parts should be “okay” from a ecological perspective because the farmer will probably mow this field in the next few weeks, before these plants could set seed anyway. No milkweed cheese for me this year! Even if my own modest patch manages to produce flowers, I wouldn’t harvest them (as flowers or young seedpods) to make sure I could plants more milkweed so the monarchs have something to eat next year.

Milkweed flowerbuds
Milkweed flowerbuds

So I creep through the tall grass in the field, harvesting milkweed flower buds and flowers, getting sticky sap all over my gloves, trying avoid any poison ivy and praying there are no ticks. I approach each plant carefully, tenderly, so I don’t disturb any caterpillars happily munching on the leaves. In fact, I might even relocate a few to my own yard, to make sure some survive the inevitable mowing of the field.

Only… there’s no monarch caterpillars.

Milkweed flowers
Milkweed flowers

Everywhere I look, the leaves are smooth and untouched by little caterpillar mandibles.

At long last, I find one. One singular monarch baby.

Poor lonely monarch baby
Poor lonely monarch baby

I carefully evacuate it to my yard, and hope I can find more in a few days … and that rain postpones the inevitable mowing further to buy me more time!

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