The first year (seven years ago)
we started Turtle Rock Farm Retreat Center,
so many Monarch Butterflies
covered the leaves of trees
along Zig Zag Lane
that we thought the leaves
were flying;
we held our breath
in awe and wonder.

Monarchs on Zig Zag Lane, 1 October 2007

We haven’t see that many
And last weekend
at The Land Institute’s Prairie Festival
we learned why.
Ted Burk, an entomologist
at Creighton University,
has made the study of Monarch
butterflies his life work.
The only plant where Monarch
caterpillars feed
is the Milk Weed.
Due to changes in habitat,
changes in agriculture,
specifically the widespread use
of Roundup,
Milk Weed is hard to find.
Half of Milk Weed lives in the corn belt.
With Round Up-ready corn,
everything but the Round Up-ready corn
Eighty-five percent of the corn belt Milk Weed
is gone.
Last year,
the Monarch population was down 97 percent
from 20 years ago.
There used to be 50 billion butterflies
over 50 acres. Last winter,
there were 30 million butterflies
and they fit in 15 acres.
So, it is no wonder
we have not seen so many Monarchs.
Last year, several enjoyed
the Russian Sage at the Farm House.

In Russian Sage, 30 September 2013

This week, as Ann mowed
the pasture down by Doe Creek
where we will set the table Saturday
for the Green Connections’ Prairie Dinner,
she was excited to see flashes of orange flutterings
amid the Chinaberry trees.
There is a Monarch migration this year!
Small, but sure.

There were fewer this morning,
but every bit as wondrous.
A gentle breeze loosened yellowed
Chinaberry leaves. They twirled and tumbled
silently to the grass.
Grasshoppers sprang.
A small Orb Spinner sat still,
in its web.
And just as silently,
a few Monarchs hung from leaves
and fluttered occasionally,
their orange wings vibrant in the sun,
gorgeous against the blue sky.

I can’t describe the grief I hold
for them—
for us—
at the prospect of them going extinct,
from the planet.