March 9, 2010

Milkweed for Monarchs


The Monarch Spring Migration Begins in March

The spring migration of the Monarch butterflies starts around the second week of March. The Monarchs will leave their winter habitat in Mexico and begin their journey to our gardens in search of nectar and host plants. The Monarchs will travel through several sections of the United States during the spring migration.

The Monarch overwintering habitats were hit hard by torrential rains, snow, hail and cold temperatures. The Monarch news at Monarch Watch is still filtering in about the impact of the weather on the population. A reduction in the survival rate is of great concern and we are in the best position to help the returning Monarchs successfully reproduce by growing milkweed in our gardens.

Milkweed is the only host plant for the Monarch Butterfly.

The female lays eggs on the milkweed leaves. Those eggs hatch into caterpillars that later become butterflies. Raise caterpillars in your garden by growing asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed), asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed) or other varieties of milkweed.

In some zones, it may be as late as June before the milkweed has returned. It is a late plant to emerge after winter. For this reason, it may also be late spring or early summer before garden centers have milkweed available for sale. A few of the mail-order nurseries sell milkweed plants and seeds.

When shopping in spring, please buy a few milkweed plants (with leaves) and plant those for any early spring migrating Monarchs. Monarch activity also occurs during August through October for the fall migration.

Nectar plants feed the Monarch Butterflies and as a gardener, you probably already have a butterfly garden. There are so many nectar plants favored by butterflies—cosmos, marigold, verbena and zinnia are good annuals; asters, bee balm, coneflowers, susans and sedum are good perennials and wildflowers. A few butterfly bushes will keep all the butterflies happy, too.

What can gardeners do to help the Monarch Butterflies?

Grow milkweed.
Grow nectar plants.
Do not use insecticides or pesticides.

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Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are owned by those respective companies or persons.

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Defining Your Home, Garden & Travel

Home, garden and travel tips by Freda Cameron

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