There's been alot of chatter in the last week or so about the massive population explosion of painted lady butterflies in Southern California. Billions have emerged and are feeding on the bounty of fresh flowers and plants that have grown in response to the heavy rains of this winter. I've seen this phenomenon occur, and it's amazing (Interstate 5 in the central valley had to be closed because it got too slick from squashed butterflies hitting automobile windshields!).
I've also seen the monarch butterfly wintering grounds in Santa Cruz, and it's breaking my heart to see what's happening to this glorious creature. Monoculture (corn and soybeans for as far hundreds of miles in every direction), and heavy use of neonicitnoids (synthetic nicotine that's used as a pesticide), along with billions of gallons of glyphosate being applied to kill every green thing around (except for the corn and soybeans) have all combined to wipe out the monarch (and countless other insects.
It's so sad - and I wanted to do something to help. Many of our properties in San Francisco have spaces that would support milkweed plants (including the community garden at Candlestick where I grow vegetables). I thought "Why not plant some milkweed seeds, and give the monarchs a place to feed and lay their eggs?" (Milkweed is what the caterpillars eat - and we've destroyed most of the milkweed in our quest to grow more corn and soybeans).
So I did my research - and learned that we should NOT grow milkweed in San Francisco or northern San Mateo county. Milkweed isn't a native here - and so this isn't a place monarchs would normally lay eggs. Growing milkweed will actually HURT the cause. Here's the link to the article that convinced me to think differently about how I can help,.