Monarch Butterflies have quite the story. After breeding in the spring and summer months throughout the US and Canada, the adults begin their migration south to Mexico, and certain areas of California, in the fall. This can take several generations of butterfly to accomplish. After overwintering in huge colonies, the adults start their return journey north, looking for places to lay their eggs and thereby starting the cycle all over again.
|Ice Ballet Swamp Milkweed|
|Butterfly Milkweed seed pods. When mature, the pod splits and the seeds, attached to 'silk.,' are carried by the wind.|
|Ice Ballet Swamp Milkweed flower buds|
|Ice Ballet Swamp Milkweed seed pods|
There are many national organizations addressing this issue, including the Xerces Society. Efforts are being made to encourage the growth and sale of native milkweeds in nurseries, seeds are being harvested and included in wild flower mixes and education is being made available to farmers on the results of herbicide use on native plants and insects.
|Common Milkweed. On a hike in The Berkshires, we found a whole field full of these.|
As gardeners, we can help by planting milkweed native to our region. In the northeast, where I live, native milkweeds include Butterfly Milkweed, Swamp milkweed, Common Milkweed, Purple, Poke and Whorled Milkweed. I planted Butterfly Milkweed and Ice Ballet Swamp Milkweed in my garden. Not only are these plants beautiful, but the bees and pollinators love them.
|Honey Bee on Butterfly Milkweed|
|Butterfly Milkweed seed pods|
As I tend my garden I always look for Monarch Butterfly activity. I have yet to see a butterfly or a caterpillar but I'm not discouraged. I truly believe, as in the movie Field of Dreams, if we all build it, they will come.