Monarch Butterflies and Swamp Milkweed: What You Need to Know

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Western New York had a record-breaking May so far! It’s the hottest ever, right after having the coldest winter ever! I went crazy this past weekend buying new plants and trying to get my beds in good shape. It’s spring time in Buffalo, and you take full advantage of the good weather, because before you know it, you will be hunkered down inside your house again! Time is going too fast, in my opinion!

With these humid, 80-degree days, my flowers and plants are growing like crazy! I purchased a beautiful azalea to replace my dead arborvitae, and I bought another holly bush to compliment the one I have. There is also something else that I was thrilled to see come back this year, right next to my holly bushes– my swamp milkweed plant!

Swamp Milkweed?!

Yes, last year when they were having a monarch butterfly exhibit at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, I took my daughter because she LOVES butterflies. She had a blast! While I was there, I learned a little bit more about Monarch Butterflies, and it made me a little sad. We are in danger of losing them if we don’t help the cause!

Monarch Butterflies have been called the “King” of butterflies for their outstanding beauty. They lay their eggs on a plant called milkweed (they have also been called the “milkweed butterfly”). The larvae of the butterfly can ONLY eat milkweed. This is what helps them develop into caterpillars.

Monarchs:

  • Are poisonous, and so is the milkweed they feed off of. Many butterflies have evolved to mimic the look of a monarch, because predators know that Monarchs are poisonous due to their toxic diet of milkweed.

Milkweed:

  • Is considered invasive and a major problem for farmers. It has wreaked lots of havoc on crops, so farmers have been using pesticides to get rid of it.

So, being as poisonous as they are, you would think there would be tons of monarchs flying around— guess again. Monarchs are very closed to be labeled “endangered” because billions of them are vanishing off the face of the earth.

The main culprit? Well, it’s a combination of a lot of things. Climate change, yes, but the one that seems to be the most viable explanation is the use of pesticides. So many farmers use pesticides to kill the milkweed, that the butterflies are dying from the poison of the chemicals.

What you can do:

Plant milkweed! Anywhere! In your gardens, in window boxes, everywhere! There is now a national campaign to plant as much milkweed as possible to get the monarch population back up to healthy numbers.

An FYI:

Your milkweed plant does not have to flower in order to attract monarchs. The friendly gentlemen running the Monarch Butterfly exhibit last year explained that to us as I was perusing the milkweed plants. They are attracted to the plant in general, so flowering does not attract the monarchs on its own.

You can purchase milkweed:

  • At your local nursery or greenhouse
  • Or at a local chapter of a Monarch Butterfly organization

My swamp milkweed is coming up just fine, and I am so happy that I can do my part, even if small, to help save the Monarch!

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2 thoughts on “Monarch Butterflies and Swamp Milkweed: What You Need to Know

  1. If you are growing any native milkweeds at your place (or if a school or any organization also) please do Join the Milkweed Highway! It takes a minute or less to get on “the highway.” If you’ve got photos, please do download them, but this isn’t necessary at all. Come join us in our efforts to create a highway of milkweeds, coast to coast. Sign on (it’s free) at: http://www.safegardening.org/highway.html

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