Nevada milkweed could help revive the Monarch butterfly

Published: Jun. 12, 2020 at 4:08 PM PDT
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A pollinator garden just outside the Knudson Resource Center is loaded with insect action.

There are beetles, bees, and eggs all making their way to the Milkweed plants here.

For Matt Forister the plant's name is a misnomer.

“So, what is a weed?” asks Professor Forister, an insect ecologist with UNR. “A weed is something that grows where people don't want it. I wouldn't want to call this a weed because it’s such a beautiful plant in your yard,” he continues. “

Besides being a great pollen source for bees, or hiding place for spiders, Milkweed is the only food source for Monarch Butterflies which are in dramatic decline here in the west.

Researchers point to the loss of habitat, climate change, and a recent study out of UNR shows some milkweed in California is contaminated with pesticides and lethal the Monarchs

“It is mostly unintentional,” says graduate student in ecology, Chris Halsch, who helped with the California Milkweed research. “I don't think anyone is going around with the intention of putting pesticides on milkweeds. Pesticides can move about the landscape. There is one class called neonics which are water-soluble and can move. That spray can get moved by the wind away from where it was originally intended,” he says.

Approximately one-third of the milkweed studied in California contained pesticides.

Samples were taken from agriculture, wildlife refuges, and nurseries.

This means Monarch, who start their journey in California, are at a disadvantage.

Healthy milkweeds here in Nevada are essential for the butterfly’s survival.

Forister asks residents to give this plant another look and chance on properties where it might otherwise be pulled or drown in weed killer.

”If we all did there it would be a remarkable amount of habitat we are creating in urban areas. And it does no harm. And it could do a lot of good,” says Forister.

Copyright KOLO-TV 2020