Pollinator Week is June 18 to 24! Leading up to and throughout the week, we’ll be sharing posts about how you can support the pollinators that help our gardens grow! To learn more, visit www.pollinator.org/pollinator-week.
Monarch butterflies may be the most recognized insect. Their yearly migration is one of the largest on the planet. In a single day, they can travel 50 to 100 miles as they make their way to and from Mexico. However, this pollinator’s population has seen large declines because their habitat has been deteriorating. But, there are things that we can do to help them. One of the easiest things is planting milkweed.
Why Milkweed is Important
Milkweed plants function as the main nursery for monarch butterfly eggs. Milkweed gets its name from its sap, which is toxic. But monarchs obtain their own toxicity from this sap. As the larvae feed on the plant, they ingest the cardenolide alkaloids. These are steroids that make the plant toxic that the larvae then store in their own issue, making them toxic. Other animals know monarch butterflies are toxic because their bright orange color serves as a warning sign to protect them.
Milkweed plants are also experiencing a population decline due to large-scale agricultural development and the use of herbicides. When milkweed is threatened, so are monarch butterflies.
Two species of milkweed are native to our area: butterfly weed and swamp milkweed. These are two of the 30 milkweed varieties that are known to host the larvae.
|Butterfly Weed||Swamp Milkweed|
|Sun Requirements||Full sun||Full to partial sun|
|Soil Type||Sandy, loamy, dry||Clay, sandy, loamy, moist|
|Soil Moisture||Dry, well draining||Average, moist/wet|
|Mature Height||24″ to 36″||36″ to 48″|