The Monarch and The Swan

While my neighbor was visiting family in Thailand, she asked me if I would water and weed her garden in exchange for a couple of traditional Thai to-die-for body massages. I happily agreed, forgetting that my body is a grouchy, old, creaky machine with hinges that incessantly squawk and squeak, but is a magnet for fickle-headed mosquitoes, bees, wasps and all manner of biting insects that keep falling in love with me.  Scented with some “new and improved” Bug Guard—(notice how all products are reborn new and improved, yet never attain Nirvana?) I did a fairly decent job except for one patch in the corner of my friend’s vegetable garden.

That’s where a 5 ft. Swan Plant was weighted down with innumerable Monarch caterpillars voraciously feeding on its leaves, stalks, seeds, and seed pods.

They quite literally were stripping the plants clean. Fatter and plumper by the hour, I watched and worried they would fall, nest and metamorphose in my hair as I weeded under the Swan plant.  I have never seen such greed, not even when I binge on ice cream.

The Swan Plant belongs to the Milkweed family(and gets its name from the shape of its seed pods. There is even a dark spot that looks like a beak. The seeds ripen from green to brown and then burst open releasing a cloud of wispy seeds that sail on the wind

to new homes. Originally from Africa and Arabia, it has colonized many parts of the world including Australia and New Zealand. Sadly, in America (and perhaps in other places) Monarchs have been declining due to a lack of Milkweed food plants, insecticides and the pollen of genetically-engineered crops that apparently poison the caterpillars.

(Okay, now let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water—genetic engineering is much too complex a topic for me to insert into this blog)

Let’s just say that the science truly is getting newer and improving beyond labeling and repackaging (unlike my bug spray!)

(Pictures taken by my brother-in-law, Larry Smith)

http://www.monarch.org.nz/monarch/monarchs/monarch-host-plants/milkweed/

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2 thoughts on “The Monarch and The Swan”

  1. Dear Lalita,
    You always give a fresh voice, and I especially love your words on science. My grandson Noah, 14, is part of a butterfly program here. Last year he raised and tagged over 150 monarchs. We don’t have Swan Plants that I know of here, perhaps too cold, but milkweed is protected in our yards for Noah!
    I’m looking forward to Pyramid next summmer. I hope your novel and retirement are going well. We are enjoying being home and catching up on things after staying with my Dad, who is now 100, since November. lots of love and good wishes, Mary

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