Each year, the last generation of Monarch Butterflies makes an amazing journey from points north in Canada and North America to their wintering grounds in Mexico. Monarchs are facing rapid population decline. Much milkweed, the plant necessary to Monarch survival, is lost as grasslands are converted for growing crops. The widespread use of herbicide tolerant corn and soybean also contributes to the destruction of milkweed. Milkweed is known as the host plant because it is the only thing Monarch caterpillars eat. The Monarch life cycle depends on abundant milkweed at every stage.
Though the odds are stacked against these traveling butterflies, it’s not too late to save them. We developed an interest in Monarchs several years ago when we began seeing Monarch Caterpillars on the milkweed in the un-mowed portion of our yard. We were inspired by their journey and began creating more habitat for them each year. We added a butterfly garden full of milkweed and nectar plants and now have several more patches of milkweed in our yard.
Though my husband gets most of the credit for turning this:
our children were fully involved in the process.
They went with Daddy to buy plants.
They shoveled and hauled dirt and mulch. They planted and watered.
They made observations as plants grew.
They watched a turtle lay eggs in the garden.
They watched healthy food grow.
They prepared a habitat for Monarchs.
In July, they started to see Monarch caterpillars.
They watched one caterpillar get into a “J” position and form its chrysalis in just one afternoon.
Two weeks later, the butterfly began to emerge.
We enjoyed the garden right up until the evening before the first frost when it looked like this:
You don’t need to turn your whole yard into a butterfly sanctuary. A small area could make a big difference in the plight of the Monarchs. We have several small patches of milkweed that look like this:
We are now in year two of our garden and milkweed patches and the milkweed is looking good!
If you can spare a little space in your yard, you can help save the Monarchs. Better yet, if you have a lot of space, stop mowing a portion and create habitat for other species too. Please consider planting milkweed and give your children an amazing opportunity to learn about the world and to contribute to it in a meaningful way!
How to create your own Monarch habitat:
Plant milkweed and nectar plants. For more information on Monarchs and to purchase supplies visit monarchwatch.org . If you are local, we can offer a few divided plants to get you started!
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