Thursday, February 26, 2009

Come Back Butterflies!

Each year that we have lived here I have been amazed at the number of butterflies we have in our garden. We live in a very rural setting with hardly any houses and open fields all around us. I have always had some sort of a garden, with plants that I thought butterflies would like, but out here it is a different story. I planted 7 or 8 butterfly bushes and up-teen perennials that they enjoy, and this year so many of them should be bigger and brighter for my visitors. I thought it might be neat to have some sort of idea when they might be coming back. So here is what I found online about Monarch Butterflies....

(The following info is from this site.... )

Spring migration begins in March, and an announcement comes from Mexico that the monarchs are on their way. After living off their fat reserves all winter, tens of millions of monarch butterflies head northward. With just a few weeks to live, they race to produce the next generation.

As the migration progresses from March through June, students predict the path the monarchs travel and map their journey north. They explore what scientists know about migration mysteries, and discover how much more there is to learn. They see the many risks the monarchs face and learn about conservation efforts underway to protect monarchs--on the wintering grounds and at points along the path.

To see where they are right now click here....

To learn when they should be in your area click here....

The Life Cycle(s) of a Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterflies go through four stages during one life cycle, and through four generations in one year. It’s a little confusing but keep reading and you will understand. The four stages of the monarch butterfly life cycle are the egg, the larvae (caterpillar), the pupa (chrysalis), and the adult butterfly. The four generations are actually four different butterflies going through these four stages during one year until it is time to start over again with stage one and generation one.

In February and March, the final generation of hibernating monarch butterflies comes out of hibernation to find a mate. They then migrate north and east in order to find a place to lay their eggs. This starts stage one and generation one of the new year for the monarch butterfly.

In March and April the eggs are laid on milkweed plants. They hatch into baby caterpillars, also called the larvae. It takes about four days for the eggs to hatch. Then the baby caterpillar doesn’t do much more than eat the milkweed in order to grow. After about two weeks, the caterpillar will be fully-grown and find a place to attach itself so that it can start the process of metamorphosis.

The caterpillar will become wrapped up in a cocoon called the pupa, or chrysalis. It will stay wrapped in the pupa while it transforms into a butterfly. This process takes about ten days.

The monarch butterfly will emerge from the pupa and fly away, feeding on flowers and just enjoying the short life it has left, which is only about two to six weeks. This first generation monarch butterfly will then die after laying eggs for generation number two.

The second generation of monarch butterflies is born in May and June, and then the third generation will be born in July and August. These monarch butterflies will go through exactly the same four stage life cycle as the first generation did, dying two to six weeks after it becomes a beautiful monarch butterfly.

The fourth generation of monarch butterflies is a little bit different than the first three generations. The fourth generation is born in September and October and goes through exactly the same process as the first, second and third generations except for one part. The fourth generation of monarch butterflies does not die after two to six weeks. Instead, this generation of monarch butterflies migrates to warmer climates like Mexico and California and will live for six to eight months until it is time to start the whole process over again.

It is amazing how the four generations of monarch butterflies works out so that the monarch population can continue to live on throughout the years, but not become overpopulated. Mother Nature sure has some cool ways of doing things, doesn’t she?

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Another good source for information and images is here.

Now of course I cannot talk about butterflies without adding plants that attract them. I cannot say enough about how much I enjoy my butterfly bushes.

They are not a fancy addition to my garden, but do they ever put on a show. I have a bench where I can sit and watch the never ending show of visitors fluttering by. Mine are violet, dark purple and hot pink.... but I am looking for a white one this year too.

And of course Purple Coneflowers.....

I know almost all of us have these, but they are wonderful for the birds and butterflies. And easy to grow and cheap (or free) is a BONUS! If you do not have them, just ask just about any midwest gardner and they will have plenty to share.

Here is a pic from my garden of another good one.... Bee Balm.

I have red, my mom has the purple (must remember to get starts this spring) and there is other colors too. It spreads like crazy, but pretty in bloom and interesting smell too. Natural pest repellant they say, so I have it by my front porch to keep the bugs off. I don't know if it really works, but it is pretty to look at anyway.

Another one I love is yarrow....

This pick is from my garden by the front walk. The butterflies seem to like the very small flowers the best, wonder why. This is a constant bloomer for me and has fern like folage that is pretty even when not in bloom.

Here is a list of common plants and the butterflies they attract.

(I put a star on the ones I have in my garden or near my home.)

*Alfalfa- Eastern black swallowtail, orange sulphur, dogface, large wood nymph

*Aster- Checkered white, common & orange sulphur, question mark, painted ladies, red admiral, buckeye

*Black-eyed Susan- Great spangled fritillary, pearly crescentspot

*Butterfly Bush- Swallowtails, mourning cloak, comma anglewing, painted ladies, red admiral

*Daisy- Pearly crescentspot, red admiral, queen

*Dandelion- Cabbage shite, common sulphur, comma anglewing, red admiral

Dogbane- Spicebush swallowtail, checkered white, common & orange sulphur, gray hairstreak, spring azure, pearly crescentspot, mourning cloak, American painted lady, buckeye

*Goldenrod- Common & orange sulphur, gray hairstreak, American painted lady, red admiral, viceroy

*Lantana- Swallowtails, cabbage white, Gulf fritillary

*Lupine- Common blue

Marigold- Milbert's tortoiseshell, American painted lady

*Milkweed- Swallowtails, checkered & cabbage white, common & orange sulphur, gray hairstreak, spring azure, pearly crescentspot, common blue, great spangled fritillary, question mark, mourning cloak, painted ladies, red admiral, viceroy, monarch, queen

*Mint- Swallowtails, cabbage whie, gray hairstreak, painted ladies, red admiral, monarch, large wood nymph

Privet- Spring azure, painted ladies, red-spotted purple

*Purple Coneflower- Silvery blue, great spangled fritillary

*Queen Anne's Lace- Eastern black swallowtail, gray hairstreak

*Red Clover- Cabbage white, great spangled fritillary, painted ladies, red admiral

*Scabiosa- Painted ladies

*Sweet Pea- Gray hairstreak

Sweet Pepperbush- Spicebush swallowtail, question mark, American painted lady, red admiral

*Thistle- Swallowtails, dogface, Gulf fritillary, pearly crescentspot, Milbert's tortoiseshell, American painted lady, red admiral, viceroy, monarch

*Verbena- Great spangled fritillary

Winter Cress- Checkered white, gray hairstreak, spring azure, pearly crecentspot

Well.... I am out of time for today. Spring just cannot come soon enough, and these are just a few more reasons why.

Happy Gardening!!


  1. This is a wonderful and very interesting post! I love pretty flowers but I mainly garden to attract the butterflies and hummingbirds to my garden.

    I'm hoping to add more milkweed this year. I have plenty of purple coneflowers and verbena, bee balm, only one butterfly bush, (got to correct that).

  2. Thanks Robin! I sub. teach at the schools most days and I try to talk about the garden this time of year, so I posted it on the site... I enjoy gardening with my girls and they are more involved this year. They have been planning where to plant all those new seeds I ordered.

    Have a great day....Brooke


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