08 September 2009

A Monarch Public Service Announcement

Nothing makes me happier than to see schools, community organizations, and others get behind a good cause. Take monarch butterflies, for example. It's no secret that I'm a fan of them, and of other pollinating creatures, and have been writing about them for a few years. We often have them in our garden, which is extremely butterfly/pollinator friendly, and many times I've sat mesmerized watching adults emerging from the chrysalis.

Recently, The Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute established a 'butterfly club' to encourage gardeners to grow swamp milkweed, (Asclepias incarnata) one of many milkweeds (but only two natives in NS, the other being A. syriaca) that monarch butterflies feed on in their larval stage. Without milkweeds, there are no monarchs. And there are problems in monarch populations, so every little bit we gardeners can do to help them is a good thing.

I'm especially delighted that schools are now getting into the act and planting butterfly gardens to help encourage the breeding and survival of monarchs (and other butterflies). One such school is Clark Rutherford Memorial School in Cornwallis, one of a handful of Nova Scotian schools that has earned the Earth School status through the Green Schools Canada program. I haven't yet been to the school or seen their garden, but I hope to visit sometime later this fall or else next spring. The school is participating in the Marvelous Monarch Migration Festival, happening this coming weekend throughout Southwestern Nova Scotia. Maybe you'll get a chance to take in some of the activities if you're in our area.

Have the monarchs started migrating in your area? I haven't seen any real numbers around here. I think the hummingbirds have finally left for warmer climates, but we're keeping the feeder up for a few days yet.

Because migrations or fall flowers or weather notwithstanding, I'm still in De Nile. I'm building a houseboat for those of you who wish to join me in that cruise.


  1. Watching the Monarchs and the other butterflies is one of the reasons I love to garden.

  2. I'm still seeing them every day here in Nebraska. Cameron is an official station of some kind for them. I have been meaning to check to see what that involves. I grow 3 kinds of milkweed, one of which came up on its own this year, the wild kind that I will want to deadhead if it blooms. There are now some little seedlings, I think, coming up. So, they are from the same seeds the first one did, or they are coming up from the roots of it.

    Save room for me on your boat.

  3. Watching those wonderful Monarchs emerge is seeing one of Nature's miracles in action. :) I think the Green Schools Canada program is outstanding.

  4. I haven't seen a single Monarch at home this year. Guess I'll take a hike where the wild swamp milkweed grows in abundance and see what I'll find.

  5. Thank you for sharing this story. I realized from following your link that I need to have milkweeds in my yard if I want monarchs. Will rectify that soon. sally

  6. Great post, Jodi! We encourage tons of milkweed around here, so we always have monarchs, and we enjoy watching them migrate at nearby Hawk Mountain, too. It awes us to think that butterflies use the same thermals to head to the tropics as the birds of prey!

  7. Lots of Monarchs here, in both butterfly and larval form. I'm sure there are many chrysalids hanging here somewhere, but we've not located any yet. They do try to do that in a protected location, usually.

    The hummingbirds are still here, still on their feeding frenzy, but I'm sure not for long.

    As you know, I've had a love affair going with Monarchs for quite some time. Their whole life is just an out and out miracle.

  8. I don't understand why I haven't seen any in my garden with all the plant "magnets" I grow .. I think my feelings have been hurt a bit ? .. kidding .. but I am wondering where are they ? like Wiseacre .. what is going on here in Kingston or my end of town .. I'm totally mystified but happy to know there are programs like this out there especially for the kids to really understand how important and amazing these little creatures are : )

  9. Jodi, kudos to your country's Green School Programs! Getting our young people involved in saving the earth projects is wonderful. I look forward to seeing more about thses programs.

    Your photos are lovley. The monarch has been on the awol list here most of the summer. Even though I have planted several butterfly weed plants and lots of other butterfly magnet plants this year, it has been an oddly butterflyless summer. Maybe it has been too coll and wet. Hopefully next summer will be better and the plants will provide them with what they need.

  10. Hi Jodi, this is so encouraging. The stands of milkweed in Tennessee has slowly but surely been turned into something else, or mowed down at exactly the wrong time for the monarchs. We have it growing here in fact, drought and all. It struggles, never blooms but we offer it up for the stray monarch that might come by. We often see one or two in October. We are not on their flight path, sadly, but still will see them on occasion. We do break out the champagne at that momentous occasion. About that river in Egypt, your garden is screaming fall in a most beautiful way. :-)

  11. Love those monarchs. We don't get them here in the metropolis. So your photos are most welcome in my world.

  12. Hi Jodi, Middle Tennessee isn't on the direct migration path! We get a few butterfly here...but they fly over Memphis to the West and East Tennessee closer to the North Carolina border. But we are with them in spirit, continue to plant milkweed plants and run out with the camera when ever we see them!

    Standing in the produce section of the grocery store...It hit me that September meant summer crops were gone. Where were they to begin with! I didn't have a peach all summer! No one offered me squash or tomatoes all summer!

    Sign me up for the cruise!


  13. So glad to see this program, Jodi. I've seen fewer Monarchs here the last two years that it has made me worried what has happened to them all. I have planted lots of butterfly-friendly plants this year in hopes of attracting more and will try to add even more next year. You may be in "de nile", but your garden still looks lovely for September!

  14. I put up a post earlier this week about this year being one of the or lowest migration on record. Droughts in Minnesota (a major breeding ground) and Texas (last nectar point before Mexico wintering) are decimating them. I was glad to see Minnesota was having a monarch festival this weekend, too! (I have only 5 guys left pupating, and this is peak migration time here in Nebraska).

  15. We have some that stay year around and in the next couple of months we see a spike up in their numbers. Monarchs sure love those milkweeds, I have several around the garden and they are the favorite of several pollinators.

  16. I managed to snap a few shots of Monarchs while walking on Toronto Islands yesterday, but clearly there are fewer than usual.

    My next door neighbour, on the other hand, has a mature purple buddleia that the butterflies have loved this summer, and our close proximity has brought Monarchs and a few other species wafting into my airspace.

    All nature is miraculous (even slugs and rust) but there's something particularly spiritual about butterflies.

  17. Haven't spotted any Monarchs yet but I hope the efforts of all of you up north means I get to see a few more this year.

  18. I will join you on that cruise Jodi. I hate the thought that summer is almost over ~ I wish we could have a "do-over!!"
    Great post. I think garden clubs all over North America should take up this cause and plant stands of asclepias as a project. I saw very few in my garden this year but we had a cool, wet summer and I thought that contributed??

  19. Hi Jodi,

    Hard to believe I am finding you for the first time or perhaps I lost you and now find you again... but we do share a love and enthusiasm for Monarchs... I went to your post of the emerging butterfly and loved it. For over twenty five years I have raised Monarchs. I allow milkweed to freely grow in my gardens and some would choose the paths. There would always be eggs on them so I would bring them inside before mowing... and be their steward ... attending to their every need. It was always such a joy to release them into the gardens. This year I have not had one... oh I did see a few caters in the garden but they were off the paths and I never disturb those. I think the rains must have kept them from flying out this far west in Massachusetts. Lovely to see yours and especially impressed that they were outside when you photographed them. Fabulous! Carol


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