The Plight of the Monarch Butterfly

Most people don’t think about where butterflies come from.
Or where there end up for that matter.
We enjoy their presence and beauty and then go about our day.
The Monarch butterfly has a very interesting, albeit, short life.
monarch and aster
The migration pattern is considered one of nature’s greatest wonders.
Monarchs are the only butterflies that will travel 2500 miles to a warmer climate.
What’s even more amazing is they winter every year in the same mountain range in Mexico.
And, to amaze you even more, these butterflies have never been there before!
Scientists have studied the migration pattern of Monarchs for years.  Even though the life span of the monarch is about a month, the offspring seem to follow the same route as their ancestors did years before them.
In Northwest Arkansas, the monarchs are just now appearing in my garden.  They are traveling south from northern states where they have spent the summer.
Their only hope for survival is the milkweed plant (Asclepias sp.)

Asclepias tuberosa
This is the only plant a Monarch will lay its eggs on and the only plant the Monarch caterpillar will eat.
Asclepias tuberosa is commonly seen along roadsides in Arkansas, but the problem is the highway department cuts them down right when the Monarchs need it most.
Asclepias tuberosa
Asclepias tuberosa
I can’t stop the highway department, but I can plant as much milkweed as I want in my garden.
asclepias syriaca
Asclepias syriaca
Asclepias tuberosa in a native Arkansas perennial in the garden.  It can become shrub-like around 2-3 ft. wide and about 2 ft. tall.  The root is a long taproot which makes this plant very drought tolerant.
asclepias tuberosa
Asclepias tuberosa
Asclepias syriaca is also a native Arkansas perennial.  This plant can get quite large at about 5-6 ft.  The flowers are also quite large and the Monarchs always seem to hang around this flower when they first come to town.
Asclepias syriaca
Asclepias syriaca attracts all kinds of pollinators
Asclepias curassavica is also called Tropical Milkweed.  It is an annual in the flower bed, but well worth planting.  This plant will bloom all summer into the fall providing food and nectar for traveling Monarchs.
Asclepias curassavica
Asclepias curassavica
Can you see the white dot on the underside of the milkweed leaf?
Monarch egg
Monarch egg
This is a Monarch egg.  In a few days it will hatch and a small caterpillar will emerge.  My goal for the next post is to follow a day in the life of a Monarch caterpillar.
Stay tuned!

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