Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

By Will Ranos / Sports Editor

With monarch butterflies close to extinction, the LBCC horticulture program is doing its part to save them.

The program is growing and maintaining milkweed plants in the PCC garden to help facilitate the monarchs’ regrowth. Milkweeds will also be sold at the annual plant sale March 28-29 and April 4-5.

Horticulture teacher Jorge Ochoa said the reason monarch butterflies are going extinct is due to the advancement of cities and the fact that agricultural fields can treat milkweeds, essential to the monarchs’ survival, as if they are actual weeds.

Ochoa said, “It’s a unique relationship between a plant and insect. It’s an extreme dependence.”

The horticulture teacher said the milkweed plant is the only plant monarch larvae can feed off of and lay eggs on. The plant is toxic, but the butterflies evolved to digest the chemicals. Once fully grown, the chemicals ingested from the plant can serve as a defense mechanism for the butterflies against predators, Ochoa said.

While the milkweed is important early on, once the monarchs become adults, their eating habits can vary and they can rely on a multitude of plants, Ochoa said. The expert said the variety of the PCC garden is important in satisfying the butterfly’s diverse eating habits.

Ochoa also said pesticides and dangerous chemicals are not sprayed in the PCC garden since they could possibly be harmful to the monarchs.

In the upcoming plant sale, the monarch butterflies will be the main theme for the event. Ochoa said, “Every year there is a theme and this year it is milkweed for the monarchs. We have around 500 milkweeds and hopefully we sell all of them.”

Drake Jasso, 19, plant science major, said the plant sale “is a good way to raise money and a good way to get the community involved. There is a wide variety of plants and they are at good prices.