The Plight of the Monarch Butterfly

Most people don’t think about where butterflies come from.

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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.

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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.

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And, to amaze you even more, these butterflies have never been there before!

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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.

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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.)

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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!

Brenda

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About the blonde gardener

I'm an Arkansas girl born and raised. I garden in the beautiful Northwest part of the state (zone 6b or 7) surrounded by the Ozark Mountains. My favorite part about the area is we have 4 distinct seasons and are able to enjoy a variety of activities. My main passion is gardening but I also enjoy hiking, birding, 4-wheeling and motorcycle trips. Basically anything outside. Thanks for stopping by! Brenda
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30 Responses to The Plight of the Monarch Butterfly

  1. I started to plant milkweed in my garden about three years ago…if there is a heaven it is filled with Monarch butterflies.

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  2. Jodi says:

    Monarchs ARE beautiful! My littles have a book about monarchs they love for me to read to them — pretty amazing little creatures! Enjoyed stopping by (from AWB)! 🙂

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  3. ChgoJohn says:

    NOVA, on PBS, showed the monarch migration a while back. Extraordinary! I’ve tried to transplant milkweed from Michigan but it never takes hold. I’ll be successful one of these times. These little guys need all the help they can get! 🙂

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  4. Anita says:

    This is a very interesting post, thanks for the information. I’ll try growing milkweed.

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  5. Brenda – You are so right. We have no control over what our governments do but WE can certainly make the effort to be wildlife benefactors.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, Brenda.

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  7. it does my heart good to see this as there was one monarch this summer

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  8. They’ve just arrived here, too…I’m hoping for photos this week, if the weather is good.
    We have A. Syriaca, but as you said, this is Mowing Time for the roadsides. I’ve got a pretty good little stand of it going in my yard now, where it’s protected…
    Can’t wait to see your caterpillar set – fingers crossed!

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  9. bittster says:

    You’ve got a nice home set up for them, I’m sure they appreciate it in their own little way. If you get daring try raising a couple in a screen cage or box. It’s fascinating to watch them grow so quickly and go through their changes!

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  20. It’s nearly impossible to find educated people in this particular subject, however, you sound
    like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

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  24. chris aka monkey says:

    i would love to know where to buy safe milkweed, can’t find it here or online any thoughts?

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