Monarch butterfly caterpillar on a milkweed leaf in Ben Nobleman Park Community Orchard

Monarch butterfly caterpillar on a milkweed leaf in Ben Nobleman Park Community Orchard.

The volunteers in Ben Nobleman Park Community Orchard were jumping for joy this week when they discovered this baby caterpillar on one of the leaves of a milkweed plan. It was found in the our Community Orchard pollinator garden in Toronto.

By this time of year, we typically have lots of Monarch butterflies fluttering around our garden, but this year, the butterflies are almost impossible to find. Part of the problem is that gardeners and farmers across North America are pulling out milkweed at an alarming rate. Considering that milkweed leaf is the only food Monarch caterpillars can eat, it becomes clear that we are starving these iconic native American butterflies out of existence.

It’s so easy to remain passive and just hope that the monarch crisis will soon pass. But after talking with Len Davis, the founder of Leaf2Wing – an organization that promotes the conservation and preservation of the Monarch butterfly – I realized it was time to get active.

Pollinator garden in Ben Nobleman Park Community Orchard, where the monarch caterpillar was found.

Pollinator garden in Ben Nobleman Park Community Orchard, where the monarch caterpillar was found.

This year the Ben Nobleman Community Orchard team will be saving seeds from our tough milkweed patch and distributing them to members of the community. Do you have a corner of your garden that would be perfect for milkweed? Join us for a seed distribution day that will be organized this fall here in Toronto.  For details, make sure you’re on our mailing list. You can sign up by clicking here.

In the meantime, we’re all praying that Ben Nobleman Park’s baby monarch caterpillar has a fighting chance for survival. Frankly, the odds are not good. So, we in Ben Nobleman Park Community Orchard are adopting Leaf2Wing’s mantra. “Save the Milkweed! Save the Monarch!”.

What are you doing to help save the monarch? We’d love to hear!

Susan Poizner is the author of Growing Urban Orchards: The Ups, Downs and How-Tos of Fruit Tree Care in the City. She is the creator of The Urban Fruit Tree e-Learning Workshops. She is also the director of fruit tree consulting and education company Orchard People.