It seemed that last winter we couldn’t wait for it to finally come, then all of a sudden someone turned the heat up to 95 and we couldn’t go out to enjoy it. Then heat finally broke and Monarch migration is under way right underneath our proboscis. Folks are already reporting on finding roost trees as far south as Cleveland, Chicago and Albany. If you live just about anywhere along the 40-latitude line in the country, you should be experiencing the wave of migrating monarchs passing through your area. According to Monarch Watch the numbers of monarchs in the over wintering sites were up by 144% and with the reports so far maybe we will beat that number this year.
One thing that really surprised me this season was the number of people that told me what a great year for all butterflies in general, including monarchs. It seemed that at every one of my lectures people went out of their way to tell me what success they have been having in the gardens. And there were countless e-mails to support their observations. Recently I was asked to do a magazine interview that included lepidopterist from around the country and everyone agreed, it was an awesome year for butterflies.
If you have been using your Monarch Migration Station, then you probably have caterpillars out the wazoo. The hardy little devils in Figure# 2 are bound for after school programs where the students will tag and release the adults and track them throughout the winter. This summer MMS actually protected my caterpillars from the harsh summer sun and encourage them to grow amazingly fast. Last summer it kept my cats from drowning in the never-ending rains.
Now my butterfly bushes are usually the work horses in my garden for attracting butterflies but this year the shining star was Phlox. I always try to encourage people to plant more late blooming flowers to address the migrating monarchs. It is at this time of year that they must build up their lipid reserves which they derive from nectar. It is this stored energy that they will need not only to make the flight but to help them make it through the winter as well. Phlox are favored by all butterflies even the overwintering Mourning Cloak in Figure 3 and 4.
So, this winter while you are planning your garden for 2020 please remember to get your milkweed in early and make a point of including more later blooming flowers.