Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Monarchs and Milkweed

Yesterday I blogged about those icky garden spiders, and so I figured today would be a good day to blog about the graceful Monarch butterfly.  The Monarchs love the flowers on my milkweed, Joe Pye Weed, and Blazing Meadow Star plants.  If you have ever tried to take a picture of a Monarch, you know that they are very active.  I like to think of them as the ADHD butterfly.  As I watch the Monarchs on my milkweed, I noticed that they preferred the closed flowers of the milkweed over the ones that were blooming.  Monarchs will only lay their eggs on milkweed plants.  The sap of the milkweed is poisonous, and by laying their eggs on the milkweed the butterflies are protecting them from predators.  The milkweed in the photos is swamp milkweed, but I also have common milkweed that seeds itself in my garden.  Common milkweed can become aggressive, so it's best to pull the plants or cut the seed pods off of them before they dry and open.  However, before you pull the plants make sure no Monarch eggs or caterpillars are on the plant.  Monarchs do not live in Wisconsin year round.  Instead they fly south for the winter.  They do not return, as the longest lifespan of a Monarch is about 8 months.  Instead it's the Monarch's relatives that return in summer.

This is a female Monarch, because the lines are thick.  Males usually have thinner lines, and they also have black spots on their bottom two wings.


Kelly said...

We attract butterflies to our yard every year. Monarchs are one of our favorites. We use tropical milkweed, swamp milkweed and butterfly milkweed. Ours seem to like tropical milkweed better than the others but they will use all three once the tropical milkweed is overloaded! You are so right: not only do they like milkweed for laying eggs but they also like to nectar from it! I have never grown common milkweed because I have heard how invasive it is. Does it also spread underground too? I Love your pictures!!

Hosta Nerd said...

The swamp milkweed is not as invasive as the common milkweed, which does spread underground. It spreads by all of the seeds pop out of the pods.

AP said...

Milkweed is good for many things, including treating warts