Make your Wildlife Garden a Certified Monarch Waystation

Every fall an amazing phenomenon occurs as millions of Monarch butterflies make their way from across Canada and throughout the US to their wintering sites in the mountain forests of Mexico and select spots in California.

They face many perils along this journey as well as in their wintering homes. Here, they are in danger from habitat loss, pesiticides, and genetically modified crops. In Mexico logging and destruction of the forests where they spend the winter is a major concern.

And that’s where your garden comes in. Your butterfly garden can play a crucial role in ensuring their success in this long migration.

First, Monarchs need milkweed (Asclepias spp) because that’s the only plant the caterpillars can eat. Milkweed is treated like a weed in many places, and if often sprayed with Roundup and other herbicides. So when you plant lots of milkweed in your ecosystem garden, you’re already helping them out.

Next, you can have your garden certified as a Monarch Waystation. Your best bets for creating Monarch habitat:

  • Plant Milkweed in a sunny area with well-drained soil
  • Both butterflies and caterpillars need shelter from predators
  • Milkweeds of differentspecies mature and flower at different times during the season. By increasing the number of milkweedspecies in your habitat you will increase the likelihood that monarchs will utilize your property for alonger period during the breeding season
  • Nectar. Adult butterflies feed on nectar, so plant a wide variety of plants that bloom from spring through fall
  • Don’t use pesticide

And finally, support the organizations who are working so hard to protect this endangered phenomena, both here and in Mexico.

My favorite, aside from Monarch Watch who sponsor the Monarch Waystation program,  is the Monarch Monitoring Project in Cape May, NJ. They have been tagging and tracking these beautiful butterflies for many years now, and working to answer many questions:

  • How many Monarchs that pass through Cape May actually make it to their wintering grounds in Michoacan Mexico in the Trans Volcanic Mountains?
  • How many miles do they travel each day?
  • What is the migratory pathway that they travel?
  • Do all Monarch Butterflies use the same pathway?

They’ve been researching the answers to these questions since 1991, and if you’re ever in Cape May during late September and October, stop by and see their demonstration in the pavilion near the hawk watch platform at Cape May Point State Park.

What are you doing for Monarch in your wildlife garden?

  1. Beth Atz says

    You provided great information & I would like permission to forward it to our local newspaper so others can be educated. I live in a rural area that for years considered milkweed a noxious weed & local law required it’s removal. I enjoy organic gardening & this article is a great example of why we need to reduce the use of chemicals in our gardens.

    • says

      Beth, thanks for your support. It is sad that so many communities continue to spray herbicides along roadside edges to eradicate beneficial plants such as the mildweeds. It’s true the Common Milkweed can spread and be a little agressive, but there are so many other types of Asclepias that do very well in gardens.

  2. Donna says

    When I asked for milkweed at the nursery, they told me milkweed was not available to purchase, just found wild! How do I find milkweed?
    I have several flowers varieties and lots of butterflies, but would like to add a monarch sighting!

  3. Marlys Swetman says

    I do have milkweed in one of my gardens, we`ve ,(grandsons) have brought in caterpillers and watched the amazing process of becoming a butterfly. Such a lesson in helping them survive.

  4. kATHY says

    wow, cAROLE – WHAT A GREAT ARTICLE. i DID not KNOW THAT BUTTERFLY WEED WAS A MILKWEED! wE HAVE TONS OF “TRADITIONAL” MILKWEED AT THE POND, SO MAYBE WE SHOULD GET CERTIFIED? wHAT FUN!

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