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Save the Monarch Butterfly – Project Milkweed
by Angie Allen
July 24, 2016

“Over the past several years the Monarch butterfly populations are declining mostly due to a loss of habitat”, says Chip Taylor, director of Monarch Watch. “To assure a future for monarchs, conservation and restoration of milkweed needs to become a national priority.” The professionals in the landscaping and garden centre business are on board with Project Milkweed. This is serious and it is easy for all of us to contribute to save the monarch. You do not have to be a gardener to love butterflies and you do not have to have a green thumb to plant the ‘I can’t kill it’ Monarch four pack. Professional growers are working with the green industry to make butterfly gardens easy on the labour and easy on the budget.

Although the adult Monarch butterflies drink nectar from many flowers, the Monarch caterpillars (larva) feed exclusively on milkweed (family- Asclepiadaceae).

All butterflies undergo complete metamorphosis with four stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, pupa and adult. It is incredible that the entire life cycle takes about 30 days. A single egg is usually found on the underside of the milkweed leaf near the top of the plant. They appear egg shaped, white and can hatch within four days.

Larva or the caterpillar stage lasts only about 15 days. This is the hungry stage. Caterpillars are travelling up and down the milkweed eating holes in the leaves and pooping (mushy green pellet droppings) as they go. They can grow from 2mm to 25mm in this time. The pupa takes between 8 -14 days from time of spinning the chrysalis to time of hatching. Look for the ‘J’ shape cocoon hanging on a stem or stick in your hatchery. As it spins its cocoon the cocoon gently rocks or swirls. Once inside its cocoon it is snug as a bug in a rug- safe and sound.

Adult is the butterfly stage. When the butterfly breaks out of its chrysalis it is damp. The monarch butterfly will have to sit quietly until its wings are dry before it can fly. This is the best time to photograph your monarch on your finger or staged on a flower in your garden. The adult will live as a butterfly approximately 2 – 5 weeks with the exception of migrant butterfly generations which live as long as 8 months. (Migrating Monarchs lay their eggs in Mexico or California) Monarch habitats include open fields, meadows, roadsides and more popularly your own back yard garden with swaths of Butterfly Weed (Asclepias).

Asclepias tuberosa is a brilliant tangerine orange, and is late to poke its head out of the ground in spring and will bloom on 2’ x 2’ bush like stems from June thru August. You can deadhead the blooms and successfully keep it in bloom late into the fall which benefits the migrating butterflies. Asclepias incarnata, another of our favourites is a tall, moisture loving pink fragrant flower head on top of 3’ – 4’stems. This asclepias makes an excellent back of the border plant and is a remarkable cut flower for bouquets.

Learn more and see more at our upcoming Monarch Butterfly workshop on Saturday July 23rd at 11am. We have invited expert Carol Pasternak, ‘The Monarch Crusader’, to teach us how to spot Monarch eggs, encourage their development, and feed their hunger! Families, gardeners, teachers and students of all ages can participate. She will be bringing lots of surprises with her. Join Project Milkweed and sign up for this workshop today. Limited spaces are available, so please call to reserve at 905-939-8680.

Pathways to Perennials Boutique Garden Centre is located at 4681 Lloydtown/Aurora Road in Pottageville for over 20 years now. For more information please contact or visit our website for hours of operation.

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