Help Save the Monarch Butterflies!

This year marks a huge drop in Monarch populations. Although it is thought they will bounce back, the deforestation of their natural habitat in Mexico along with the disappearance of natural meadows and milkweed in the landscape, is not helping their cause…

HOW YOU CAN HELP:File:Monarch Butterfly Danaus plexippus Laying Eggs.jpg

    1. If you have a garden or even an area on your property that you may not mow or are able to let native flowers (weeds) grow, consider planting some species of Asclepias, including Common Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed and Butterfly Weed. Although Butterfly Weed may not thrive in Northeast Ohio, if planted in an ideal location it can survive. However Common Milkweed (which you can find growing naturally) and Swamp Milkweed are hardy plants. Common Milkweed tends to spread from its root system and many pull it out as it can get invasive in a flower garden. However, it can be maintained if kept up with. Swamp Milkweed is what you will most commonly find at local nurseries (garden centers rarely carry it as it is not appealing as many other perennials). It is available in White and Pink and does not spread like Common Milkweed, however the seeds can take and sprout plants up randomly around your yard, which if aren’t identified can be taken as weeds and pulled in spring.
    2. Plant Butterfly Nectar Plants near the Milkweed, including annuals. Most perennial and shrub butterfly nectar plants are later blooming. Make sure to fill your garden with annuals and early blooming perennials the butterflies that over wintered can feed off of. This will also help attract them to areas where you have Milkweed planted so they can easily find it to lay their eggs on. Some great plants are Lantana (annual), Verbena (annual), Butterfly Bush, Echinacea, Garden Phlox, and Yarrow.
    3. Let your weeds grow! Well, some of them anyways… plants such as Iron Weed (Deep Purple Flower) and Joe Pye Weed (Pink Flower, VERY TALL) are very attractive to butterflies, however many people pull them out or mow them down before they bloom. Some nurseries even sell Joe Pye Weed and Iron Weed if you want to add some to your garden (we do carry Joe-Pye-Weed).
    4. USE CAUTION WHEN USING PESTICIDES: Regardless if you are using pesticides to keep away Aphids, Japanese Beetles, Ants or other pesky insects, before you spray consider what it will do to other insects. Just because a pesticide advertises use for certain insects, doesn’t mean it won’t kill other insects!  If you need to use pesticides, avoid using them on plants that the Monarch Butterfly feeds or lays eggs on. Only spray the plants that are affected by the insect you are trying to get rid of rather than everything in your garden.
    5. Don’t squish that worm! Many of us tend to kill the big green caterpillars that are eating our plants… however they turn into butterflies and moths! Teach your children which ones are ok, and which ones you may not want eating your vegetables, although they rarely kill the plant, they may just leave some nasty bite marks all over them and leave your veggies looking half eaten… even Tomato Caterpillars turn into night flying sphinx moths. The Monarch is easy to identify, and will usually only be found on Milkweed (however they can travel to other plants). Here is a picture of a Monarch Caterpillar, please don’t kill them! File:Nymphalidae - Danaus plexippus Caterpillar.JPG
    6. Leave Chrysalis and newly hatched Butterflies alone. Disturbing the Chrysalis can damage or kill the butterfly. A newly hatched butterfly needs time to pump fluid from its body into its wings (they wings don’t dry as many people think) once ready, the butterfly will take off in search of nectar plants.
    7. PREDATORS: Monarchs have few predators because of the toxicity in their system from digesting Milkweed as larvae. Many toxic insects are identified by predators with their bright colored and black markings which is why the Viceroy butterfly mimics the Monarch. However, Milkweed can attract aphids, which attract Asian Lady Bugs (this is good right because the ladybugs eat the aphids?) well, no… Asian Lady Bugs (an introduced species) will also eat Monarch Larvae! So, although we don’t encourage killing every Lady Bug you see as they are beneficial in some circumstances, we recommend that you remove aphid infested sections of Milkweed and destroy them. The aphids will destroy the Milkweed anyways, so removing them will prevent Asian Lady Bugs from being attracted to the plant, keeping any Monarch Larvae a little safer.

You can also add butterfly houses and feeders to your garden, but planting natural nectar and host plants is always the best way to get them to your yard.

Stop in and purchase some Swamp Milkweed (or any other butterfly nectar plant) and receive a free Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle coloring project for your kids (while supplies last)!

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