Everyone wants monarch butterflies to come to their yard. When I was a little girl in New York State, it seems monarchs were all over the yard. Here in Texas, we hardly ever see them. We briefly glimpse them sometime during September through November as they make their way through Texas into Mexico. Then again in March, they come back through Texas from Mexico and on up into the Northern United States.
What is so special about the monarch butterfly? The monarch is an important pollinator across much of the United States. Monarchs cannot stay up north in the cold during the winter. Unlike other butterflies, they do not hibernate and wait until spring to come out. Instead, they travel south to Texas and in down into Mexico. They overwinter in the high mountains of Sierra Madre, Mexico. Then, in the spring, on their way up north to the Northern USA and Canada, they stop by Texas again around March to lay eggs on newly sprouted milkweed plants. It is important to have milkweed ready in your yard for food for them as well as a nesting ground.
David's Garden Seeds® sells milkweed seeds and you can find them here.
Adult monarch butterflies also enjoy zinnias as food so you will want to have plenty of them growing in your yard along with the milkweed plants and herbs and vegetable plants. Yes, we carry a lot of zinnia seeds and have them growing all over our property.
Monarchs travel in colonies for warmth. They will all stick close together when flying and when roosting.
The monarch has four stages. You probably learned about them in grade school as I did. First, the eggs are laid on milkweed. After three to five days, the eggs hatch and they are growing caterpillars for between nine and 15 days. After that, they go into a cocoon or chrysalis for nine to 14 days and finally emerge as a butterfly. Remember?
Females lay their eggs on milkweed because monarch caterpillars will only eat milkweed plants once their own eggshells have been eaten.(Not true. Keep reading.)
Now, in my research, I read that monarchs will lay their eggs only on milkweed but I can tell you from personal experience that this is not true. We do not have any milkweed whatsoever on our property here in Poteet, Texas. This morning, October 5, 2022, I found five monarch caterpillars eating three of my parsley plants, munching all of the leaves off overnight. We have also found them eating tomato leaves and the leaves on other vegetable plants around the area.
Monarch butterflies can grow from three and a half to four inches across.
Monarch butterflies typically live from just two weeks to six weeks if they are born in the spring and summer. Most don't last long because of their natural predators who love to eat them like beetles, spiders, and ants. The butterflies that actually migrate into Mexico live for around nine months and die on their way back up North after they lay their eggs in Texas.
Butterflies will travel 25 to 30 miles per day when they are on their way to overwinter. It is very interesting to see how much work these beautiful butterflies have to do by way of 3,000 mile one way trips to stay alive and keep them from going extinct.
You can do your part and help the monarch butterflies along the way by planting lots of milkweed all around your property. Remember, milkweed, as well as all other wildflower plants should be in the ground in Texas by October for early spring blooms.
It seems that everyone wants to help save the monarchs. Literally thousands are killed during butterfly season by flying directly into the windshields and grills of vehicles all over South Central Texas. The windshield wipers and fluid are not enough to get them off. Big automated car washes do not remove all of the nastiness. You have to scrub them hard by hand to get them off.
You do have to keep an eye on your vegetable and herb plants for caterpillars because if you don't they will kill the plants while they are in the caterpillar stage. It is upsetting when you are growing plants to eat and/or to sell and they are stripped of all leaves overnight.
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