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Hello Milkweed Nation and welcome back to Grow Milkweed Plants Podcast. Today we are going to be talking about Asclepias outerwear. Building a real estate empire on the foundation of the bee houses. The monarch butterfly population status in North America. Where we stand with the migration and much much more. Thanks for listening to Grow Milkweed Plants podcast episode 37 we are in season 3 and this is episode 10.
So the Grow Milkweed Plants Podcast is brought to you by Grow milkweed Plants the online web-store that sells milkweed seeds. It's my side hustle and passion. During the day I’m working for a major airline. I also enjoy that, however, I've had a lot of overtime in the last many days which has kept me from getting behind the microphone. In addition to that it is the summer time and my wife is a schoolteacher. That means she is not working during the summers therefore we are traveling. I did podcast after returning from Mexico where reported that the monarch butterflies are now extinct. Well that's not entirely true! I hope that was clear in that episode. Monarch butterflies are not extinct. However there is a real concern over the monarch butterfly migration in North America. I’m going to talk about a infamous scientist who supported the theory that the monarch butterfly migration is threatened. While the monarch butterfly themselves may be okay.
As I mentioned, Grow Milkweed Plants web-store generates money from seed sales which supports this show. Let's go over some sales. I'm very transparent about the income and expenses at GrowMilkweedPlants.com in the last 12 months I have sold 913 products. Mostly all of those are seed products and that was to 391 customer. One of the biggest things that I noticed that I'm grateful for is some of those customers are return customers. I remember when I had the first return customer sale. I was excited. I was through-the-roof excited! Will, I’ve been accruing a little bit of cash resources in the account. I made two major purchases in August. I’m going to tell you about those now. The first one is a piece of clothing. This is not just any piece of clothing. This is a piece of clothing that supports the monarch butterfly. How is that possible? Lets go into a little bit of detail about milkweed clothing in North America. Primarily milkweed clothing is available through one company right now and it's the Quartz Company. Q-U-A-R-T-Z Co. They are Canadian-based company and they're working with retailer Altitude Sports in Canada. I'm not sure which city in Canada. Doesn't really matter. They shipped the box to me containing my Asclepias parka. The parka brand that I have is called the Labrador. It is 90% insulated with milkweed insulation and it has 10% polyester fill. The polyester probably helps to support the milkweed so that it doesn't bunch up inside the clothing. So I am on the quartz–co.ca website. Most of the milkweed clothing right now is up in Canada. It’s also very expensive. However it also seems to be very high-quality. I'm a big fan of purchasing things are high-quality that will last for years and years if not decades. It appears that they have four female and four male clothing options for their milkweed line of parkers. There's a LAURENITA for women FOGO and DORSET and GENIA model. Those are the four names of the women's jackets. All of these are Parker's that have a lot of length on them. They are going to keep you warm below the waist. Mine goes to the mid thigh I believe. For men there's a BELFORT which is a little bit shorter. LABRADOR which I purchased. It’s their longest jacket it includes a removable hood. The features on it are really nice. I can talk about it for a little while but the fact is, it's summertime. I’m going to go over this jacket in more detail in the winter. There is also a CHAMPLAIN and MELVILLE. These are all milkweed insulated parkas by Quartz Co. They seem to be very well-made. There are no threds to trim off or anything like that that you might see on a $40 jacket. That's Quartz Co. and they are out of Canada. I also want to mention like an honorable mention right now for a US-based company. Currently I'm not aware of any milkweed based insulation in clothing that's available from US manufacturers. I am aware of one company that is called Monarch Pass Outerwear. Again the name of that the business is Monarch Pass Outerwear. I will have a link to their site in the show notes. I don’t believe you can purchase anything from them today but the name “Monarch Pass” I want you to remember that because I'm gonna talk about it in the future and I hope to have Skyler on the show when he is in the final steps of launching his kickstarter which is in the works. Skyler Christensen has a goal and he has the technology and I believe he has the infrastructure and experience to make a successful run at making milkweed insulation. I think he works for… well, we’re going to interview him in the future - if he will come on the show when he launches the kickstarter. I think that be a great opportunity to learn about the benefits. The difficulties. That come with using such a natural fiber as milkweed in outerwear.
One thing I noticed about the milkweed collection is that they don't have any for fur lining on the hood area. A lot of people criticize clothing that does not have fir on the hood because in these very cold climates like -25º Fahrenheit the fir lining really helps to keep the warmth inside in your face area. But because the milkweed collection clothing is not using any animal products. They will not put for lining on there. I'm fine with that. It doesn’t really get that cold where I’m wearing it is it’s not a factor for me. Not using animal fir that's fine. The last thing I would want would be like a fake fir on there. This is a great plant-based solution for keeping you warm. That is the first purchase that I made. I purchased that using Grow Milkweed Plants income. I’d like to thank the customers for that. I think it's a good investment but we’ll find out in the winter.
The second thing I purchased is a saw. Yes I bought a chop-saw. A dewalt 12 inch saw. The reason I bought that is because I had such success with the first mason bee house that I made. I decided I was going to make some more of these. Over the winter 2018-2019 I’m going to be working in my garage and sawing stuff up. Sawing up pine boards and drilling them out. I’ve got a 10 step process right now. It’s simplified a little bit, or maybe I just didn’t write down all the steps. It’s simplified from an instructables.com mason bee house directions. Terri in Virginia had one made by her husband using these directions. I modify the directions a little bit a little bit to simplify the steps. Some of the steps seemed to be a little bit to much work. What is a mason bee house? How does it support monarch butterflies? Let's take a look at the type of bees that we have in North America. We have the honeybee which we all know and love. The honeybee is considered to be a great pollinator. There are big business is built around honey bees. They produce honey which is probably the greatest asset. I have Honey virtually every day. I put a bit of honey in my coffee and that's how I sweeten it. If you haven't tried that, give it a go and see how you like it.
Local honey is usually the best. I get it right here in Reno Nevada there's Hidden Valley Honey. They're my favorite local honey provider. I wouldn’t recommend you get it from Hidden Valley Honey unless you're in the Truckee Meadows, Nevada. Get if from your local honey supplier. The native bees are a little bit different then honeybees. The native bees are usually… I mention that honeybees are popular. Well I didn't say that they are native. Honeybees actually originated in Europe. They have been here for so long that everybody loves the honeybee now. Native bees like a Mason bee have been around here for thousands of years if not hundreds of thousands of years. Native mason bees, summer leaf cuter bees and thousands of other bees are out there pollinating the heck out of plants like milkweed. This is also true of wasps. I’m not going to talk about wasps right now. I'm just talking about native mason bees. The differences is native mason bees don't use the hive system that you see with honey bees. Honey bees will often nest in giant cavities and create large honeycomb structures. You can have honeybees in bee boxes which a beekeepers will use. The langstroth hive is a popular one. There's a new model the flow hive which is interesting. A honeybee hive is a very large. Most of the solitary which includes mason bees and leaf cutter bees they are a simple tube structure. They usually range in length from as short as 3 inches to as long as that about 6 inches been ideal. Now a 4 x 6 or 2 x 6 is 5 1/2 inches after it’s manufactured. That's the depth of a 4 x 6 which is the main material that I'm gonna be using for this. What I'll do is drill right through that lumber after cut to size. I drill any holes in there and then insert parchment paper which will serve as the service the area that the bee will climb into. The parchment paper is placed inside of the hole that is drilled out and what that does is it creates a serviceable nesting tube that you can go to year after year and replace as necessary. It’s a little bit better for the hygiene and health of the bees because if you just drill a hole the wood there is some concern that if they return to it year after year you could actually introduce negative pathogens and predators and things like that. I think I have hybridized all of the best things about the houses and I'm going to incorporate all of these best practices into the design that I have. In addition to that I’m going to make it a shippable size and I’m going to offer it at the most reasonable price that I can. Initially when I built my bee house I realized I had to go out and get a drill bit. I already had a drill. I already had a skill saw but I didn’t have a great saw. I was getting inconsistent cuts which is fine for my backyard but I think for a product that is going to market I want to have the very best tools in order to manufacture an consistent product. So thats what I’m going to be doing over the winter. My bee house cost between $65 and $70 to build. I think I can get that cost down to about maybe between $30 and $40 shipped. Shipping will be about $20 of that. I’m going to try to offer it at a reasonable price consistent with about what I spent for my first one but I might have a little bit of room to hopefully earn a little bit of money back to pay back into the Grow Milkweed Plants account to pay for the saw that I purchased.
Monarch butterflies have been on the move and sometime between August 1 and August 15 is the date that the Journey North determines to be the beginning of the fall migration. We are in that time right now where monarch butterflies have been breeding in the northern breeding grounds. All the way from Ontario to Quebec if I have that right. The monarch butterflies are all over up there around the Great Lakes region. There's a lot of monarch butterfly activity from southern Maine all the way down to Richmond Virginia. There are lot of reports of monarch butterflies out in that area in the summer of 2018. however when I look out here to the west there's activity around San Francisco. Spotty monarch activity sightings in Montana, southern Idaho, Salt Lake City and very northern California Smith River. However, Oregon, Seattle Washington, Portland garbage! There is like no monarch butterfly sightings. Granted I've seen a few but I don't report it if I can't get a photo of them. Maybe the reports are just not coming in in the west. Fight now I'm looking at maps.journeynorth.org for the monarch adults and these are sightings prior to August 16, 2018. Obviously it's not the 16th yet but like this one up in Smith River California is one of the most northern ones. This was reported: two male monarchs on August 11th so I was just two days ago. Nectaring on milkweed, verbena and red clover. They have territorial behavior’s. Smith River California I can look at the details. This person has experience in monarch observations. The name here is Terry. Smith River California Terry thank you for reporting this sighting. It's really great to see. Also mentions the weather: clear, blustery in other parts of the coastside. Calmer here in the drainage with south gusts to 18mph. Total monarchs sighted was three it looks like. Terri there's a lot of great information! Thanks for reporting that to Journey North. There's a few places you can report things. You can go to Journey North which is a great specifically for monarch butterflies because they also do reports on the progress of the monarch butterfly. One of my favorites is iNaturalist.org I know there's at least two people that have joined up with getting their login credentials and making observations about milkweed plants and hopefully in the future monarch butterflies. iNaturalist.org is a really neat resource and you can use it for a lot more than just milkweed plant and monarch butterflies. Although those are my two favorite reasons to use that resource. If you see a bug or a bird Bird or an animal or mammal a reptile. If you see any plant or any animal the Flora and Fauna anywhere in the world. You can make a report of that and you don't even have to know what it is. If you take quality photos of that item the community will help you identify that species. Ideally you are reporting species that are wild. However if they are cultivated, like you have a plant in your garden, you can also report cultivated species. It's important to make a note if you reports cultivated species that you're growing that you either purchased or you are growing from seed. You notate it with a checkmark in the cultivated box. That would people know you're not gonna see this growing out the wild. It’s a cultivated species.
Let’s take a look at the Journey North report your sightings chart. Journey North has that wonderful calendar wheel that indicates where we are in the migration. As I mentioned, they have an arrow pointing to the August 15. The very beginning of the fall migration. That continues on thru September and October with fall breeding and generally a southern migration towards Mexico. The fall breeding culminates around Halloween or in Mexico day of the dead in Mexico. So these monarchs on the eastern migration are going to head south. Not necessarily today, but in general, they're going to begin migrating south through September-October and November. Beginning in November and December that's going to be the winter in time in Mexico November, December, January, February. They will break-up again next year and head north for the spring migration. Right now we're looking at fourth generation monarch butterflies and some of them could be third generation. Some of them could be fifth generation or any variation of that but in general we’ll just say they are fourth generation monarch butterflies. These are the great great grandchildren of the monarch butterflies that are born in Mexico and they are now ready to start the migration to the south. Something that you might see with these butterflies is they seem to be larger than they have been all summer. These are commonly referred to as super-monarchs and that is the migratory generation of monarch butterflies. I don't entirely understand the science behind this but super-monarchs are larger wing Monarch butterflies and those large wings are going to give them the ability to fly with great ease in the direction of Mexico where they are going to overwinter. Same thing happens in the west with monarchs out here. I have noticed myself while rearing monarchs in previous years. Monarch butterflies in late August and September tend to be larger winged monarch butterflies. That's not always true but it often is true.
Monarch butterflies need nectar plants during their migration. In season three I did a couple of interviews. Anurag Agrawal mentioned the fall migration requires nectar sources. That may be one of the biggest gaps in the fall migration is quality nectar sources. These monarch butterflies, well they are small in size the super monarchs are a little bit bigger but they also need to build up lipid storage a.k.a. fat storage so that they can survive the many months they are gonna be down in Mexico during the winter. Even though the weather is generally pretty nice there's not a lot of nectar sources. They won't be feeding during that time. Fall nectar sources are super important. One of my favorites is the sunflower plant. Sunflower is a wonderful fall nectar source but there are many flowers out there that you can use.
Alright we are going to change gears a little bit. Kind of tie back in with some of the topics we've been discussing in this season which is season three of Grow Milkweed Plants Podcast. Growing milkweed plants themselves is really important. Learn how to germinate the milkweed seed which is not always as easy to germinate as some other varieties of plants that we grow in our garden or out vegetable garden. The milkweed seed can you be a little bit of a challenge. Even after you get a growing it doesn't really unusual things depending on the weather conditions soil moisture, amount of sunlight, temperature. All of these play into the success of growing the milkweed plants. The season started in November 2017 and it started by talking about winter sowing milkweed seeds. Winter sowing milkweed is basically throwing the milkweed seeds on top of soil as the temperatures are cool. Cool temperatures are going to be below the growing thresholds of the plant. Even if you water them and they get a lot of sunlight the seed is still not going to grow because the temperature is not high enough for the seed to grow. That's basically anything down our below 60°F. In most cases, in the winter, we are a lot closer to freezing in most country. Temperatures drop below freezing. Even in southern climates the days are shorter and the temperatures are still a little bit lower. Winter sowing starts by putting those seeds out on the ground. It culminates in the spring time with warmer weather, increased sunlight, spring rains and warmer temperatures. You can continue to grow milkweed plants all throughout the summer time into the fall. As the temperatures drops off the daylight gets less in the fall. Those plants will begin to go dormant. Most milkweed plants, the majority of species, are perennial plants. In the northern climate where it freezes if you take a southern plant like tropical milkweed, hairy balls or maybe crown flower. Take those and move them up to the north. They die in the winter and they do not grow back. Let’s take for example butterfly weed. Asclepias tuberosa is a hardy perennial that will return year after year. In the spring time you water the seeds you get it that sunlight and warmth and the seeds jump up. I was showing in some YouTube videos and what not, winter sowing of the milkweed seeds. When I did that I had a bunch of milkweed seeds; showy milkweed, aquatic milkweed, jewel milkweed and spider milkweed. Asclepias asperula A-S-P-E-R-U-L-A that one started growing along with showy milkweed and mexican whorled milkweed. I was getting pretty good results. Then some people quit or transfer at work and spring break travel picked up. Overtime went through the roof and my time to keep an eye on the seeds, primarily provide water for them, fell off sharply in the spring time. Basically, even though I did have some of these plants growing for a while, I missed the window of opportunity where I should've transplanted them. They really suffered basically the show milkweed just like went kaput. It burned up in the summer sun with no moisture.
Links to pages mentioned in the episode:
"If it's good for the butterflies, it's good for me" -Brad G.
Host: Brad Grimm
Location: Grow Milkweed Plants HQ
Intro Music: sunny - Bensound.com
Outro Music: acusticbreeze - Bensound.com
Location: Grow Milkweed Plants HQ
Intro Music: sunny - Bensound.com
Outro Music: acusticbreeze - Bensound.com