Feature Stories

Milkweed and Monarchs-Saving Our Pollinators

     Monarch butterflies live all across North America.  We see them all Summer long flying around brightly colored flowers, sucking up nectar as they help pollinate the world, as well as giving us humans something beautiful to watch. Unfortunately Monarchs along with other important pollinators are on the decline.  Big time on the decline.  To the tune of 90% decline in the past few years.

Some facts about Monarchs:

  • Monarch caterpillars only eat Milkweed. When it changes into a butterfly, the milkweed is still in it’s system.  When something out there eats the butterfly, they end up getting sick from it, and avoid monarchs from then on.  The signature markings on Monarchs wings give predators the clue.
  • Monarchs migrate 3000 (three THOUSAND) miles to Winter in Mexico.
  • Monarchs are on the decline, and people like you and me can help them out.

After Wintering in Mexico, the Monarchs following the warming weather and fly up to the Texas area in search of Milkweed to lay their eggs.  These eggs hatch, the caterpillars eat, go to chrysalis, emerge as a butterfly and take off.  They fly another few hundred miles North, rinse and repeat. These butterflies live for about 5 weeks or so.  4-5 generations of this cycle later, they are here in the Northeast searching for Milkweed to lay their eggs.


Monarch Caterpillars eat milkweed.  Lots of Milkweed.  Without Milkweed, the caterpillars have no food source.  Milkweed is also on the decline.  Loss of habitat due to the usual culprits of  land development and people spaying weedkiller.

How Can You Help Monarchs

    Plant some Milkweed.  NOW is the time to plant Milkweed.  It’s one of those Fall things.  Here is info from the Monarch Joint Venture all about Milkweed, the different species, and what type to grow here.  Also a link on where to buy seeds.

Milkweed grows all over Newstead. My back yard being one of the places where it is plentiful. This year, I found this guy hanging out, munching away in my yard. I decided to save it from being a snack for one of the many critters that hang around here.

Within 2 days, it went to the top of the enclosure and hung in the “J” position. That means, it’s going to change in like 24 hours!

At this point, I went out to my Milkweed patch, and found more Monarch eggs, collected them, cared for the caterpillars and released the Monarchs when they hatched (after letting their wings dry, of course.

Here’s a little video of the process from egg to Monarch (the little music that was in the background seems to have vanished, so imagine music playing). Keep in mind the eggs are as small as a pinhead, and when they hatch, you have to find the baby caterpillar with a magnifying glass!! That part where it sheds it’s skin and goes to chrysalis is just so neat. Mother Nature in action! Enjoy, and watch your blood pressure go down :). This batch of butterflies will be making the 3000 mile journey to Mexico!!