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What to Expect in Your Monarch Garden

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It always helps to have a vision of what you want your garden to look like. We let you run with your imagination and guide you along the way to make sure your Monarch garden will be beautiful for years to come.

High nectar yield flowers attract migrating Monarchs

 

Flora

Your garden should balance aesthetics and well being for the plants. We use native plants from a local garden center. Native plants guarantee that the plants will acclimate quickly and be recognized by female Monarchs to lay their eggs. Non-native plants are non-native for a reason - the environment in our region doesn't provide what they need to thrive. More importantly, Monarch's will not recognize non-native plants as readily resulting in a reduced chance of laying her eggs.

 

There are many native plants to make your garden beautiful. Our design philosophy is to balance the height, width and colors of mature plants and to maximize your space with respect to your budget. Milkweed is the foundation plant of your garden. Colors include: orange, yellow, pink, white and purple. Liberal use of milkweed guarantee plenty of food for all five generations of Monarchs. We carefully select high nectar plants for your adult male and female Monarch butterflies. In order to keep the Monarchs you attract from May through October, we select plants that overlap blooming cycles. This keeps nectar available as fuel for six months.  

 

Fauna

While we focus on Monarchs - other visitors will visit your

garden. You can expect many other species of

butterflies along with honeybees, hummingbirds,

lacewings and praying mantis.

Ladybug larvae and ladybugs will devour aphids.

   

Along with the good of course you should expect many other visitors including: milkweed beetles, stink bugs, assassin bugs and yes, many many aphids. Aphids are likely the most visible and concerning for Monarch garden

owners. They seem to appear out of nowhere and, once you

have them, you'll have them until the first frost. While you

may fear they'll kill your milkweed, milkweed are durable

and are rarely impacted by the little yellow insects. If you

lose sleep over them, you can buy a spray bottle and shoot them off with plain water.

While Monarch caterpillars are toxic, your garden will have a few predators that will kill them. Assassin bugs are the most likely insect to actively kill Monarch caterpillars. These pests can be removed by hand and discarded. A significant parasitic threat includes tachinid flies and parasitic wasps. There is nothing gardeners can do to prevent predators or parasites. This is why, in part, why female Monarchs lay between 300-500 eggs in her 4-week lifetime.

 

Garden Dynamics

The following events in your garden are nothing short of remarkable and reminds us: Nature finds a way.

 

Leaf Regeneration

As you've learned, milkweed is a hardy plant which is a good thing for Monarchs. In addition to a year-long onslaught of sucking aphids, hungry Monarch caterpillars chew morning, noon and night until nearly all the plant's leaves are gone. Just as one generation of caterpillars have eaten all they've needed to pupate, the plant sprouts new leaves just in time for the next generation of tiny caterpillars.

Below is a picture of an orange milkweed sprouting new leaves following a complete defoliation.

                                   Not only does Nature prepare for a new food supply for the

                                   next generation of baby Monarch caterpillars but it does                                                         so in a manner in which meets the needs of small mouth parts.

                                   Is it chance the 5th instar (largest) caterpillars ate the largest

                                   and toughest leaves which triggered new tender leaf growth 

                                   for female Monarch butterflies to target laying their next eggs?                                       

                                                Consult with us and we'll find out together.

 

Monarchs Prepare their Food

Another incredible feat of Nature is how the Monarch caterpillar protects itself while eating. As you've learned, milkweed contains a large volume of sticky, milky latex-like sap. The sticky sap can be like glue and, if the Monarch caterpillar is not careful,  they can get stuck in the sap and die.

 

   

                   

 

If you see this happening to your milkweed, don't fret. It's actually a good sign: it means you have a happy Monarch caterpillar on your plant. Additionally, the cutting of the healthiest part of your milkweed stimulates the plant to regenerate additional stems below the cut producing a more full and stronger plant.

 

Looking for a Private Place to Change

As your caterpillars complete their 5th instar, they are plump and leave their host plant, the milkweed. Their search is for a place to transform from a caterpillar to a butterfly. The most desirable place for the caterpillar to form their chrysalis include the following characteristics:  out of direct sun, wind and rain. Caterpillars will wander hundreds of feet from their feeding plant to find a quiet and discrete location at their own risk. We have created and offer the first safe haven for Monarch caterpillars.  

                                                            Introducing the: 

                                               Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar 

                                                        Changing Station 

We offer consulting and installation of successful Monarch Gardens. This includes recommendations of 'garden peripherals'. These peripherals provide caterpillars and butterflies with protection, moisture and minerals in addition to food & fuel. 

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New born caterpillars will nearly aways cut a circular pattern to avoid getting fatally stuck in the milkweed glue-like sap.

It is estimated that 60% of more newly hatched Monarch caterpillars perish on the leaf from which they hatched and within a day or so of hatching. 

A tactic older Monarch caterpillars use is a technique called leaf-cutting. The caterpillar chews a leaf near the plant's stem. The leaf will then hang so it remains accessible to eat but cut enough to:

1) avoid the initial flow of sap.

2) prevent the leaf from re-filling with excessive sap. 

Source: A. Agrawal, 2017

Source: A. Agrawal, 2017

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Green lacewing attacking aphid

New growth after caterpillar foraging

Should I Stay or Should I Go ?

July 9, 2022...

Four or five generations of monarch butterflies will visit your garden between May and October. When a new monarch butterfly emerges like this one that emerged July 9, 2022 it has a choice whether to fly to a new neighborhood, field or even garden center nursery to search for food and a mate. You play a significant role on whether that newly emerged butterfly remains on your property. 

If the butterfly finds an immediate source of flowers with high levels of nectar, there's a good chance it will stay, feed and look for a mate. This means having the right plants flowering from May through October. To keep your garden attractive all season long - it takes planning in the off-season to determine which plants will provide food for caterpillars and nectar for adults for May, June, July, August, September and early October.

This adult male found an immediate full flowering butterfly bush.

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Emerged July 9, 2022

Decided to stay on the property

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