Every school-age child knows the story of the mighty Monarch migration and how these seemingly fragile fluttery butterflies gather together and fly thousands of miles south to Mexico.
Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this fantastic journey that embodies the strength of purpose and hope?
A Monarch Waystation does just that. They provide sustenance for the Monarchs along their migration. Monarchs feed on milkweeds throughout the spring and summer in breeding areas in North America. As they leave these areas on their journey south, they need nectar from flowers to sustain them. Both milkweed and wildflowers are in decline as herbicide use increases, and habitats are lost to development.
These Monarch Waystations are mini-monarch habitats. Think of it as an oasis of rest, food, and replenishment. Size doesn’t matter; your waystation can be as large or small as you like. But it should be very sunny as butterflies prefer sunny gardens. Grow milkweed plants, lots of them! But not too close together. Use a variety of milkweed species native to your area; flowers will bloom continuously during the season. Consider mixing in other nectar plants as well. Here are a few ideas, goldenrod, coneflowers, lantana, zinnias, asters, black-eyed Susan, and beebalm.
Regional milkweed species are as follows:
Northeast: common milkweed, swamp milkweed, butterfly milkweed, and poke milkweed.
Southcentral: antelope horn milkweed, green antelope horn milkweed, and zizotes milkweed.
Southeast: aquatic milkweed, white milkweed, and butterfly milkweed.
West: showy milkweed and antelope horn milkweed (in the southwest).
While not all species of monarch butterflies migrate, those in North America often do migrate to their overwintering sites. The massive movement begins in September or October, and the return migration happens in March. Interestingly no individual butterfly completes the entire round trip. Females lay eggs for the next generation during the northward migration in springtime. Four generations are involved in the annual monarch cycle of life. The generation that migrates in the fall lives eight times longer than their parents and grandparents.
Visit Monarchwatch.org to learn more about Monarch Waystations and why they matter.
Also, consider participating in the Monarch Monitoring Blitz, which runs through August 6.