Save the Butterflies—but Not to Save Our Food Supply

Save the Butterflies—but Not to Save Our Food Supply

Those who wish to conserve wild species and ecosystems long have sought novel ways to change public attitudes and behaviors related to conservation. For instance, a Web site of the National Park Service notes: “While feeding on nectar, [monarch butterflies] pollinate many types of wildflowers.” This and similar assertions are widespread, but untrue. To the contrary, the scientific evidence suggests that neither milkweed, the food plant for the caterpillar stage of monarch butterflies, nor other wildflowers rely on these butterflies for reproduction. Instead, the physiology of monarch butterflies prevents them from playing a major role in pollination. There are many practical and poignant reasons to conserve wild things and wild places, and nature benefits humans in many ways.

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