Rochester Pollinators Committee founder Marilyn Trent explains migration patterns and other facts about monarch butterflies and the importance of saving them to Downtown Rochester Farmers Market shoppers June 1.

Rochester Pollinators Committee founder Marilyn Trent explains migration patterns and other facts about monarch butterflies and the importance of saving them to Downtown Rochester Farmers Market shoppers June 1.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Rochester Pollinators Committee formed to save monarch butterflies

Group works to reintroduce Michigan native plants into local landscapes

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published June 12, 2019

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ROCHESTER — Each year, millions of monarch butterflies migrate across the U.S., many spending their summers breeding in Michigan before traveling to the mountains of central Mexico for the winter.

Climate change, pesticides and habitat destruction along the over 2,500-mile trek have recently wreaked havoc on the species, which has seen a population decline of approxmiately 90% over the past two decades, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Although they are small in stature, monarch butterflies — along with bees and other pollinators — are responsible for pollinating one-third of the world’s foods, experts say.

Michigan Environmental Council Agricultural Policy Director Tom Zimnicki said pollinators are vital to the health of the state’s ecosystems and agriculture industry.

“Increased threats to pollinators and recent declines in their population jeopardizes food production for some of our favorite Michigan crops like apple, blueberry and cherry,” he said.

In an effort to preserve the monarch population — and support bees and other pollinators — the city of Rochester has formed the Rochester Pollinators Committee, a subcommittee of the City Beautiful Committee. Rochester Pollinators is hoping to reintroduce Michigan native plants into local landscapes while educating the public on their importance in relation to the monarch.

Michigan plays an important role in the monarch life cycle, according to Marilyn Trent, who founded the Rochester Pollinators Committee.

In one season, she said, it can take up to four generations of monarchs to reach their destination from Mexico to Canada. The monarchs that are native to Michigan are the fourth generation and have a long journey home.

“We have to produce the super butterfly that will be able to make it 2,800 miles … back to Mexico,” she said.

New generations of monarchs start here on their host plant, milkweed, on which they depend to develop. But recent declines in the milkweed habitat across the Midwest have contributed to the monarch population decline.

“The milkweed plant is the only plant that monarchs will lay its eggs on, and it’s the only plant that the caterpillars that are born can eat to become the monarch butterfly,” Trent explained.

The Rochester Pollinators Committee is encouraging local businesses and community members to plant a pollinator-friendly garden with milkweed and other native plants. Trent said the committee has put together a small list of plants that will bloom from May to October to support monarch butterflies and their pollinator friends. The list includes everything from butterfly and rose milkweed to black-eyed Susans and purple coneflowers.

Trent and others on the committee recently spread awareness at the Downtown Rochester Farmers Market June 1, giving away native plants, selling seeds, and handing out garden and plant information to community members.

The group also planned to spread awareness June 8 at the Rochester Hills Public Library’s Summer Reading Kickoff and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. June 20 during the Rochester Garden Walk and Native Plant Sale at the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm.

Rochester Mayor Rob Ray has jumped on board and signed the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayors’ Monarch Pledge, a promise to restore native habitats in the area and to educate others about their importance.  

To further support the monarch population, Ray and his family recently built a pollinators garden in the backyard of their Rochester home.

“It has the milkweed and the black-eyed Susans and all the other stuff that the Rochester Pollinators have put together in a great and simple guide,” he said. “It’s a fantastic way to help take a stab at addressing an issue, raise awareness and give people a simple way to participate.”

For more information, including a list of pollinator-friendly native plants and a starter garden layout, visit rochestermi.org/pollinators.

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