The Birds and The Bees--and The Butterflies

...Birds do it, bees do it
Even educated fleas do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love
--Cole Porter

When Cole Porter wrote “Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love” in 1928, he wasn't thinking about butterflies. He was thinking of birds, bees and...well, educated fleas. As opposed to uneducated?

“The Birds and Bees” soon became a euphemism for courtship and reproduction. "The Talk."

Well, Cole Porter could have—should have--added "butterflies."

Monarch butterflies. Especially considering the dwindling number of overwintering monarchs along coastal California. 

According to a Dec. 8 article in The Guardian, in the 1980s some 4.5 million monarchs overwintered in California, but today the number has dropped to about 30,000. That's a drop of some 97 percent, The Guardian noted.

Earlier, on Nov. 30, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation (which organizes the Thanksgiving count) reported:

"We currently have preliminary count results from 97 sites, which includes many of the most important overwintering sites. In 2017, these sites accounted for 77% of the total monarch overwintering population, hosting approximately 148,000 monarchs. In 2018, the same sites have only 20,456 monarchs. This represents an 86% decline since last year."

"We will not have final numbers until the count is over and all the data are in and vetted (usually late January)—and we will keep our fingers crossed that other sites are hosting more monarchs."

Speaking of The Birds and The Bees, when migrating monarchs from the Pacific Northwest and inland California were fluttering to coastal California--and some were just eclosing--we encountered a courtship in Vacaville, Calif.

The date: Sept. 29, 2018

The players:

  • A bird: A metal sculpture nailed to a post.
  • Bees: Dozens of honey bees foraging on Spanish lavender beneath the post
  • Butterflies: Two monarchs, Danaus plexippus...well...getting acquainted.
  • Educated Fleas: No where in sight. (No uneducated fleas in sight, either.)

Sadly, the statistics indicate--with or without educated fleas--a dismal spring for monarchs.