By Mindy Ragan Wood
EL RENO – Janet Corner remembers the days when Monarch butterflies covered the county’s cars along dirt roads during the annual migration, but she fears those days will never return.
The regal Monarchs have declined in population by 90 percent in North America in the last 20 years and some experts say they could become all but extinct in the next two decades.
Corner hopes to change that.
“I raise Monarchs and Swallowtails,” she said at the Canadian County Free Fair last weekend. “The Canadian County Master Gardner’s Association and I go out to all the cities and towns and do demonstrations about our pollinators.
She hopes to see every community adopt better practices that provide more habitats for the butterflies such as planting milkweed and leaving those plants alone during the mow season.
“The only plant a monarch will lay eggs is the milkweed,” Corner said. She grows them on her property and shows their life cycle in a container for anyone to see. She had a demonstration set up at the fair where monarch caterpillars can be seen preparing for their cocoons and others preparing to emerge as butterflies.
Next year the association will offer free milkweed seeds to those who take up the cause.
“At one time you could drive down a country road in Canadian County and your windshield would be covered with them,” she said. “I always looked for the Monarchs.”
Corner also remembers what started the decline in its population. She pointed to the loss of habitat due to residential development and the use of pesticides in fields and lawns has decimated the population.
“The insect population is down worldwide,” she said. “The decline of butterflies is like the canary in the coal mine. They’d send a canary in the coal mine and if it didn’t come back, you knew something was wrong. They (Monarchs) are trying to tell us something is wrong.”