Monarch Butterflies are pretty incredible. Not only are they lovely to see, the monarch is an excellent pollinator, an important part of the food chain for birds, and an astounding traveler.
By The Rye Garden Club Conservation Committee
Monarch Butterflies are pretty incredible. Not only are they lovely to see, the monarch is an excellent pollinator, an important part of the food chain for birds, and an astounding traveler. Did you know that the butterflies that migrate south in fall are four generations descended from the ones that left Mexico in the spring?
This summer, however, the monarch butterfly was hard to spot. Experts fear the population is rapidly decreasing. There are a few causes for this, but the biggest problem is that illegal logging in Mexico is diminishing the monarch’s winter habitat. This year, the World Wildlife Fund found that, due to deforestation, the monarch’s nesting grounds had been reduced by 59 percent in just one year.
Storms and climate change have taken a toll on the butterfly as well. The problem in our area is that development has replaced the host plants and nectar plants that insects need once they arrive here in summer.
You can help support the monarch butterfly in your yard by planting the food and nesting areas that monarchs need.
Monarch butterflies lay their eggs in milkweed. This is their sole host plant and it also serves as a nectar provider. Milkweed grows well in our area, and there are many species that are showy and pretty. Try planting Common Milkweed, (A. syriac), and Butterfly weed (A. tuberosa) in dry, sunny spots. Swamp Milkweed, (A. incarnata), is a good choice if your soil is wet. Plant these varieties instead of imported exotics, and you will be offering a home to monarch eggs and food for monarch caterpillars and butterflies.
Along with milkweed, there are countless nectar plants you can cultivate in your yard to provide food for monarch butterflies. Shrubs such as lilac, azalea, and viburnum have blooms that attract butterflies, as do wild perennials like black-eyed Susan and Joe Pye weed. Cultivated perennials like catmint, coneflower, and sedum, and annuals such as cosmos and zinnias are all monarch delicacies.
No Insecticides or Herbicides
Avoid using insect and weed killers on your property. They are non-selective and are very likely to also kill the “good” bugs (like monarch butterflies) and the “good” plants (like milkweed.)
Many nurseries sell milkweed plants and seeds. A good online source for seeds is www.americanmeadows.com.