Monarch butterflies

by Caroline Brown

Tower Hill Botanical Garden was loaded with monarchs when I visited last week. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many in one place. They must be getting ready to head south, no?

The monarch (Danaus plexippus) is native to North America and is well-known for their mass migrations to warmer climates, especially coastal California.

The best way to attract monarch butterflies (and help the species) is to to plant native milkweed, plants in the Asclepius genus. Besides being the larval food source for monarchs, milkweeds are loved by bees and other beneficial insects. The milky sap of the milkweed is poisonous–not to monarchs, only their predators. Their milkweed diet makes both the larvae and adult monarch a poisonous meal to many predators.

Monarch butterflies aren’t in danger of extinction, but their North American populations have declined. This is in part because of the decline in popularity of native milkweeds in the garden (in favor of non-native butterfly plants such as butterfly bush, Buddleia davidii, which don’t have poisonous sap) as well as the elimination of milkweed habitat (through development).

Native milkweeds are a must for your garden if you want to attract monarch butterflies and help them out by giving them the best diet. Shown above is a popular member of the milkweed family called butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa. Swamp milkweed, A. incarnata, is shown below.

Photo credits: A. tuberosa courtesy of Wikipedia. A. incarnata courtesy of AB Native Plants. The monarch photos were taken by me at Tower Hill Botanical Garden.

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9 Comments to “Monarch butterflies”

  1. Nice that you caught them on the Tithonia – it’s like a matching outfit. I’ve heard that monarchs are experiencing a comeback – it definitely seems like there were a lot more of them in the garden this year!

  2. Just beautiful C. Butterflies have a special meaning for me these days, a link to my mom….long story but very powerful and keeping me linked to her spirit.

    I am back at Veggies….do stop by when you can.

    Huggs, G

  3. I didn’t spot my first Monarch till near the end of August … they totally devoured my different Milkweeds though which made me happy. I love the flowers on Milkweeds … and try and encourage more people to grow them.

  4. Hi – What a lovely web site! It was certainly a benner year for monarchs in the Madison Wisconsin area. We always like to raise some inside, and this year we had 5! Every time we brought in asclepias for one caterpillar, there would be more eggs on it. We got to watch all 5 hatch (all male) and fly away. Thanks again for your wonderful photos. – Harriet

  5. Hi, it looks like this is good side to ask about butterflies. I found pupa that was apple green with golden dots, now it turned to black beige. Does anyone know what it is?, or where to find the info? Picks are in “September 2007” posting.
    http://artandscienceproject.blogspot.com
    Namaste,
    Jolanta

  6. Hi Jolanta, I am not so good at identifying insects or butterflies. Have you tried the following websites?
    http://www.reimangardens.iastate.edu/en/butterflies/butterfly_identification_cards.cfm
    or
    http://www.backyardnature.net/buttrfly.htm
    Good luck!!

  7. im doin a S.A on monachs and i want to no if u all no anything bout em

  8. We usually winter over a Monarch or two iondoors. This year we have one with no proboscis. Is this unusual or significant?

  9. My first monarch hatched on the 27th of august, and well she still hasn’t flown away. Is this normal? She’s still sitting outside my door. She built her crysalis in the house where we set up a teranium, hatched there and we tried to release her a few hours later. Any idea?

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