by Karen Joslin
Monarch butterfly on wildflower at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.
You've probably heard that Monarch populations are rapidly declining.
If you want to help Monarchs and attract more butterflies to your yard, here are five easy things you can do.
Buy it from a nursery that specializes in native plants if you can, because they're less likely to spray their plants with pesticides, which will kill the caterpillars.
If you plant Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassivica) and you live in USDA plant hardiness zones 8-11, cut the milkweed back in the fall to avoid OE (a disease that can decimate Monarch populations.)
Monarch Butterfly Garden has a good exploration of potential issues with Tropical Milkweed and what to do about them.
Tip: To keep aphids from infesting your milkweed, sprinkle coffee grounds around the base of the plant. Repeat every week or two.
This includes natural pesticides like Neem oil.
Caterpillars eat crops and other plants people don't want them to, so farmers and pesticide makers don't consider them “beneficial insects.”
Many flowers that look pretty in the garden, like geraniums and hydrangeas, don't fit the bill.
Native nectar plants will not only support butterflies, they'll also attract native bees, beneficial insects, birds, and other wildlife to your garden. (Research what plants work well in your area.)
Non-native plants that butterflies love can also be good choices.
Check out Birds & Blooms for more info, including Help Migrating Monarchs With Fall Nectar Flowers.
Migrating monarchs often roost overnight in pine, fir, and cedar trees.
Overwintering monarchs along the California coast roost in eucalyptus, Monterey pines, and Monterey cypresses.
For tips on raising monarchs, take a look at Save Our Monarchs' guide How To Raise Monarch Butterflies At Home.
I've really enjoyed raising Monarchs and it makes me happy to know I'm making a difference. (Get an inside look by watching Raising Monarch Caterpillars: A Video Diary.)
Want to help other butterflies, too?
Caterpillars, chrysalises, and some adult butterflies overwinter in leaf litter, so leave it on the ground until butterflies have emerged in spring.
Bonus: If you leave some leaf litter on the ground permanently, you'll also have more fireflies in the summer.
© 2020 Karen Joslin
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