The Monarch Butterfly was recently added to the endangered species list which means helping them out is more important than ever! In this blog we will discuss plants and other items you can easily add into your landscaping to provide food, water, and shelter for these important little butterflies!
The Monarch Butterfly’s spring migration is their reproductive period. During this time, they are seeking out an abundance of Milkweed. They will only breed where this plant is present because it is their host plant. All butterflies typically have a singular host plant that they munch on while in their larval form, and Milkweed is the only plant that the Monarch will eat during that stage of development. Without it, the larvae do not grow into butterflies!
Milkweed is actually toxic! It contains a poison that makes the entire butterfly toxic to most vertebrates. Did you know that Monarch Butterflies and larvae are orange to serve as a bright and clear warning to not eat them? It’s a pretty neat evolutionary trick! There are tons of Milkweed varieties to choose from and it’s important to have some planted ahead of the spring migration. Adding an abundance of this plant to a spring garden bed is not only useful for the butterflies, but they bloom and add color to your landscaping which allows you to enjoy it as well!
Other Food Sources
It’s important to remember that butterflies need an abundance of food sources which they get from the nectar of flowering plants. Without the nectar, they wouldn’t be able to migrate the great distances that they do. A great way to plan for Monarch Butterflies is to create “nectar corridors” which are beds filled with different varieties of flowering plants that all bloom at or around the same time. We suggest having one that blooms for their spring migration period and one that blooms for their fall migration period. The clusters of bright blooms will attract them to your space so they can fill up with nectar before or after their long trip.
A few plants that we try to always have on hand that are known Monarch attractors:
They prefer plants with a large pad-like flowers! The surface area is easy for them to land on and reach the nectar.
Did you know that Monarch Butterflies can migrate up to 2,500 miles? In spring they migrate to the US & Canada to breed, then in the fall they head back down to the forests of central Mexico to hibernate through the cooler months. It is extremely important to provide them with blooming flowers during their trip back down south to ensure they have enough strength to make it! The sight of the butterflies in these forests of Mexico is unlike anything you’ve every seen. No other butterfly migrates at such great distances and quantities, which is why it is important to help them out as much as we can.
It is important to provide Monarch Butterflies with water as well as nectar! An easy way to do this is to fill a shallow birdbath with water and place rocks or even a small concrete sculpture in the bowl. Make sure whatever you are placing in the birdbath peaks out over the water surface. This provides the butterflies (and other pollinators) with a safe space to land and reach the water without falling in. Once they fall in, it’s hard for them to get back out and they could perish in the water.
Now that you have food and water sources for the Monarchs, it’s time to add the final element: shelter. They mostly seek solace among trees so making sure your landscaping has some for them to land on is important! If there are no trees in your space, they may feed and move elsewhere for shelter. It’s important to create connecting habitats. That means if you do not have all three elements (food, water, shelter) in your immediate space, it’s important that the missing element(s) are somewhere close by. Connecting habitats can be as local as your front and back yard, or as large as connecting neighborhoods, cities, and states. That means if you have the blooms for them to munch on in your backyard, make sure you have trees in your front yard, or that your neighbors have the missing factor to provide them with all three survival elements.
When in between migratory periods, you can work to prep your space for their arrival. Whether its seed sowing, garden bed prep, or tree planting, you’ll want to be prepared! Check out the links below to some of the great butterfly related items that Garden Seventeen sells. If you have any further questions about how to make your space Monarch friendly, don’t hesitate to come speak with one of their knowledgeable plant experts!
Click the links below to be taken to their online store:
Book: 100 Plants To Feed The Monarch
Shop Seeds (Milkweed & Other Nectar Sources Available)