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Small gesture can save entire speciesSmall gesture can save entire species

Your Take: A reader from New York challenges farmers to save room for monarch butterflies.

August 13, 2021

1 Min Read
monarch butterfly
MONARCH BUTTERFLIES: This majestic butterfly has been declining in numbers because of the disappearance of its main food: common milkweed. Smith Collection/Getty Images

One five-second slight turn of a steering wheel on a tractor multiplied 500 or 5,000 times can actually save an important species of butterfly!

Linda McLyman and I own some property near Hamilton, N.Y., and we’ve known for several years that the population of monarch butterflies has been dropping precipitously.

A primary reason for the decrease has been loss of a critical food plant, the common milkweed, which is the only food source for the species. Much of this country’s hay is cut right when the monarch caterpillars are eating the milkweed leaves, killing the plants, thus killing the butterfly larvae.


PRESERVING MILKWEED: On his small farm, Daniel Leete is asking his custom harvester to avoid cutting the milkweed plants. Leete wants to save monarch butterflies.

Recently, I approached “Dave,” a crop technician working for BarBren Farms, a farm-based company owned by Barney and Brenda Prince — who own, lease or rent about 650 acres of land locally. I asked Dave to avoid cutting several clumps or clusters of milkweed plants on a 20-acre field, resulting in more than 80 milkweed plants successfully avoided.

That wheel turn will mean less than the loss of one bale of hay, but what an opportunity for, at least, dozens of butterflies!

Think about it, if this practice were put in place on 5,000 farms, a simple act of turning a tractor wheel alone could mean the survival of a beautiful species of butterfly.  

Leete farms in Hamilton, N.Y.

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