Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias Tuberosa) is a native plant that creates a wonder area of your garden for monarch butterflies. The Growers Exchange wants to encourage our gardening friends to set aside a sunny space in their gardens to help these majestic butterflies thrive and slow the decline of their population. Monarch’s exist because of milkweed plants.
The bad news: there can be no question that natural habitats, areas where monarch butterflies live, are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Habitat destruction, defined as changing an area in which a plant, animal or other organism lives to the point where that species can no longer survive. The destruction is generally described as either actual destruction, degradation or fragmentation. In the case of the Monarch butterfly, the major threat to their survival is the loss of milkweed habitat, which is an essential plant in their life cycle. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the counts of Monarch butterflies are trending down sharply, and their migration is now under threat.
The monarch butterfly population has declined over 80% in the last 20 years.
The good news: restoration of habitat can be achieved with very little effort on the part of concerned gardeners. You can easily offset this loss of a critical host plant in your own yard by planting milkweed, the vital host plant for Monarch butterflies.
While the Western monarch population has declined again, the Eastern population actually rose 144% last year. Everyone CAN make a difference for monarchs!
What is a Monarch Butterfly Host Plant?
Monarch larvae feed exclusively on Milkweed plants, and we grow native Milkweed species, including Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias Tuberosa) that has been recommended by Monarch Watch, Wild Ones and the North American Butterfly Association.
The Monarch Life Cycle:
- Arrival: In February and March, the Monarch butterflies that have been hibernating in Mexico and California begin to ‘wake up’ in order to find a mate, and begin their northward journey. Once they arrive, the female will lay her eggs on the Milkweed host plant.
- Once laid, in 3 to 4 days the eggs move into the caterpillar/larva stage and this is where the ‘eating begins’. This stage can last from 10 to 14 days, and the caterpillar is devouring Milkweed leaves in preparation for the next stage
- The chrysalis stage is where the transformation takes place, and although from the outside, the caterpillar is going through an amazing conversion known as Metamorphosis and in 10 days, it will emerge as a beautiful butterfly. When it emerges, it will need nectar from flowering plants to thrive.
- This cycle repeats itself for 4 generations throughout the summer months. There is one important exception
- The 4th generation of butterflies, born in the fall, will have a much longer lifespan and will undertake a long and perilous journey. This group will migrate south, to Mexico and California, and will spend 6 + months hibernating, in order to return the following February. The nectar provided for this generation is the ‘fuel’ for its journey.
Create a Monarch Butterfly Garden:
- Chose a sunny spot in your garden, and remember to pick an area that is protected from wind.
- Plant plenty of larval host plants. Monarchs need milkweed. Please remember that you are planting food for caterpillars so chewed up leaves are a good thing!
- In addition to your host plants, remember to plant an array of plants that flower at different times to attract and feed butterflies throughout the season.
- Avoid any herbicides and pesticides.
We are encouraging all of our customers and friends to join this initiative. This is an easy way to create meaningful change for the Monarch population, and to aid in stemming the tide of decline. Please remember to share your success stories with us, and send photos!
Original images from Wikimedia & Pixabay.