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Friday, November 06, 2015


by Roger Stoll

Soon, monarch butterflies that sipped nectar in your backyard will heed an ancient call. These tiny, black and orange insects will rise high in the air, hitch a ride on the thermal updrafts and fly until they reach their winter home in a Mexican forest, 2,000 miles away. Climate change has also taken a toll, Sarikonda said. Drought kills milkweed and other pollinator plants; cold snaps keep caterpillars in that stage longer, leaving them more vulnerable to predators, she said. Steps toward helping the monarchs are showing progress. Many parks and nature centers hold programs in the fall asking volunteers to help catch and tag monarchs so that scientists can gather data about their migration habits. —Julie Washington, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 9, 2015. Photo credit: Katharine Auld Breece.

The Monarchs have returned.
It’s taken them four generations,
but they made it;
a few of them anyway,
fewer by a quarter, by a half.

Their overwintering forests
have been logged and burned.
The climate is too hot,
drying out the eggs, cooking the larvae.
Milkweed, the larvae’s only food, has been decimated by herbicides.

This time they’ve come prepared.
They picked up what they could along the way,
balancing it on fragile bodies
suspended beneath spectacular wings:
helmets, blast-proof armor, grenades, light arms.

They’re not going quietly this time.
After a few weeks,
once they’ve copulated, laid their eggs,
and before they die,
they plan to take a few of us with them.

Roger Stoll is a retired music teacher living in San Rafael, California.