Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Monarch Butterflies in the garden

Every year, I look forward to the return on the Monarch Butterflies. Monarch's are the only Butterfly here that migrate. Every year, Monarch's that have hatched mid summer in Ontario will fly 3000 km to reach the mountains of Central Mexico by October. They leave in March, often producing the next generation in Texas that will continue on until June - which is about the time they return here.
 To create a butterfly haven in your yard, you need to have the plants (and flowers) that each of the 4 stages of it's life needs to thrive.  The eggs are laid and hatch on Milkweed, which is the larva's only food. The eggs take about 2 weeks to hatch, and once they do the larva goes on a feeding frenzy for about 2 weeks.

I planted Butterfly Weed (Asclepias Tuberosa) for them in my garden, and I must admit it was a little alarming when they devoured the entire plant. But don't worry folks, it grows back!  We also have stands of common milkweed ( Asclepias syriaca ) nearby which they seem to prefer.
 After feeding for about 2 weeks, the larva spins itself up into a Chrysalis and hangs for another 2 weeks.
 An amazing transformation happens, and soon a new butterfly will emerge

Butterflies are the most active between 10 am and 3 pm. It is quite a joy watching them flutter around the yard. Adults feed on nectar and are most attracted to blooms that are red, orange, yellow and purple. In September, large numbers congregate here and feed for fuel for their long migration to Mexico. In my experience, they like Golden Rod, Asters, Black Eyed Susan's, Echinacea, Yarrow, Joe Pye Weed,  Sedum, Zinna's, and Cosmos.  Plant some Milkweed and some of these other plants in your yard and you will be certain to attract Monach's to your garden.

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