March 24, 2013

Wherein Butterflies The Problem

Good morning and greetings, springtime freshness fans. As we all know, last Wednesday was the first day of spring, also known as the vernal equinox or thank God it’s not winter anymore. It’s a day when the equator, the center of the sun and my car’s brakes are fully aligned, which includes a free rotation of my seasonal conciousness.

For the next three months and throughout the NBA playoffs, the sun will gently warm my heart and the northern hemisphere, which will bring smiles to those living in the Mountain West and Great Lakes region and New England states, where recently it has been colder than a reception for Mel Gibson at a B’nai B’rith luncheon.

On the first day of spring, temperatures were up to 25 degrees below my usual scoring average, with more snow than you could find at a Pablo Escobar stash house. The calendar may have read late March, but the ground was snow covered and frozen, which reminds me of the Woody Allen line, “Who bothers to cook TV dinners? I suck them frozen.”

So how cold was it? It was so cold down at a city morgue, you couldn’t tell the stiffs from the guys who worked there. A guy fell out of bed and his pajamas broke. Republicans were actually hugging Democrats while waiting for the bus. A chicken was seen walking down the street with a cape on. Sherwin Williams needed a third coat. And it was so cold that a guy saw one dog trying to jump start another. At least that’s what he thought he was doing.

The arrival of spring also means thousand of college students heading south across the border to sunny and cartel free Mexico, to celebrate and inebriate the annual ritual of spring break. We’re talking places like Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. Myself, I was always more interested in fast breaking than spring breaking, as because of my Quaker upbringing I don’t drink alcohol or jump off balconies from my hotel room.

I know the draw of surf, sand, suds and sun is a powerful one, but boozing it up was never my thing, as it interfered with my study of the Torah. I’m just kidding, I was always much more of a Kaballah man. But those decapitating cartel boys, who have total disregard for bystanders, umpires and referees would deter me from heading south to where the party never stops. But being a tanned hard body, I can still relate to the words of Robin Williams, who says “Spring is nature’s way of saying, let’s party.”

So on that note, we’re heading down to Mexico. In a story written by Mark Stevenson for the Associated Press, scientists reported last week that the number of Monarch butterflies making it to their winter refuge in Mexico dropped a shocking 59 percent this year, falling to the lowest level since comparable record-keeping began 20 years ago. It was the third straight year of their decline of the migration from the United States and Canada to spend the winter living in mountaintop fir forests in central Mexico. Six of the last seven years have shown drops, and there are now only one-fifteenth as many butterflies as there were in 1997. This is not good news as I have spent half my life chasing the bright, elusive, butterfly of love.

So what are the reasons? The World Wildlife Fund, one of the groups that sponsored the butterfly census, blamed climate conditions, jealousy of moths and agricultural practices, especially the use of pesticides that kill off milkweed, the Monarchs’ main source of food. The butterflies breed and party in the U.S. in the summer, and then migrate to Mexico in the winter. Mexico says they have down their part to protect the butterfly reserves by eliminating large-scale illegal logging and promoting the movies of actress Salma Hayak, who once said, “I keep waiting to meet the man who has more bats, er balls than I do.”

The loss of milkweed in the U.S. makes it hard for the butterflies to lay eggs, and for their young that do hatch to find enough food to grow to maturity. In addition, unusually hot or dry weather can kill eggs, meaning fewer adult butterflies. South of the border, unusual cold weather, lack of water, tree cover and mariachi bands means that Monarchs are less likely to survive the winter and reach adulthood. And thus they will never see Eva Longoria’s new reality TV show, “Devious Maids,” based a Mexican series that that follows four maids who work in Beverly Hills but dream of their own success. And all this time I just thought she was a desperate housewife. Or as the former Mrs. Tony Parker once put it, “I find it a turnoff whenever men aren’t into some kind of sport.” And that, my friends, is why I watch NBA TV.

Lincoln Brower, an entomologist at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, says, “To blame the low numbers of monarchs solely on what is happening north of Mexico is misleading. Herbiciding of soybean and corn fields that kills milkweed is a serious problem, but the historical decline over the past 19 years has multiple causes. All three countries need to face up to the fact that it is our collective activities that are killing the migratory phenomenon of the Monarch butterfly.” So some fingers, including the middle, are being pointed. And I believe it was either actress Jessica Alba or Mexican writer Oscar Funetes who said, “What the United States does best it understand itself. What it does worst is understand others.”

The head of Mexico’s nature reserves, Luis Fueyo, said there are still some problems to be solved at the wintering grounds in Mexico, including some scale-logging and water availability. The Monarchs don’t drink any water throughout their long migration until they reach Mexico, and the mountain streams in the area have been affected by drought, human use and pinata parties. No butterfly lives to make the round-trip. The millions of Monarchs cluster so densely on tree boughs in the reserve that researchers don’t count their individual numbers but rather measure the amount of forest they cover. It’s just another reason why they can’t see the forest through the trees.

This winter, the butterflies covered just 2.93 acres, down from 7.14 acres last year. That doesn’t bode well for us, as who knows what we’ll be seeing this fall in the eucalyptus groves at Natural Bridges and Lighthouse Field. It doesn’t sound promising. So the final word on this situation south of the border comes from Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, who said ” I would rather die standing than live life on my knees.” Viva la revolution, and for you Elvis and Ann Margaret fans, “Viva La Vegas.”

For today’s photo enclave, I’m featuring a group of butterflies at play. The final shot shows the Monarchs clustering in the trees at Natural Bridges State Park. When you look up at this sea of orange and black, you’re viewing one of the true wonders of nature, as their migration north to reach this safe haven, much like me trying to get back down to my high school weight, is brutal. Or as Jennifer Aniston once said, “I love the feeling of being in love, the effect of having butterflies when you wake up in the morning. That is special.” I can relate, as I’ve always savored the early stage of being in love, when I woke up feeling like a happy caterpillar.

On to some late night humor. “A guy in Great Britain found a way to make cars run on coffee. The good news is if cars start running on coffee, it means once again I can smoke at the pumps. Are you folks excited about St. Patrick’s Day? It’s the day I tell Irish jokes written by Jewish writers.” – David Letterman “To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, Carnival Cruise had all their toilets overflowing with green water.” – Jay Leno “For many colleges, this is spring break. College kids will go to places like South Beach to make mistakes they will cherish for a lifetime. Spring break is an important American tradition. It’s how we grow a new crop of MTV teen moms.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Last night on “The Tonight Show,” during the monologue Jay Leno called NBC executives “snakes.” The response came quickly. “Jay Leno has crossed the line and gone too far,” responded the snakes. The new show “Bates Motel” premiered last night. It was very suspenseful. The whole time watching it I was thinking, “Will that guy get stabbed? Will he survive to see the next week?” I’m sorry, that’s while I was watching “The Tonight Show. Julius Caesar was romantically involved with Cleopatra for 14 years. After he dumped Cleopatra, there were rumors that Julius Caesar fathered an illegitimate child by a housemaid. But those rumors turned out to be false. It was actually Caesar’s cousin, Julius Schwarzenegger.” – Craig Ferguson

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul announced that he supports a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Or as illegal immigrants put it, “Who do you think’s going to build that path?” Kate Middleton revealed that she wants to have a boy, but Prince William is hoping for a girl. However, they both agree that no matter what gender it is, its nanny will love it just the same. Burger King is now offering a turkey burger on its menu. Or as horses put it, “Nope, still us.” There’s talk that “Today” show host Matt Lauer is the top choice to replace Alex Trebek when he leaves “Jeopardy.” Or as Alex Trebek put it, “Who is Matt Lauer?” – Jimmy Fallon

So that’s our Monarch update. I hope you have been relishing the incredible play this week of LeBron James and of March madness, as we are now down to what my daughter will be turning in August, the sweet sixteen. Enjoy the week and the celebration of matzos. We’ll catch you shocking the world by going alley-oop crazy and pulling off the biggest upset in the first round of the NCAA playoffs. Aloha, mahalo and later, Florida Gulf Coast University fans.


  1. Very informative editorial writing about the Monarch Butterfies. It seems that the honey bees are having similar survival issues too. Have a great week.

    Comment by Babs — March 25, 2013 @ 8:11 am

  2. As I once said, “butterflies and zebras move me, like a fairy tale.”. Of course, I was hallucinating at the time.

    Comment by Jimi Hendrix — March 25, 2013 @ 8:26 am

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