5 Ways to Save Monarchs and Make 2023 Your Best Monarch Season…Ever!
March 2023: The eastern monarch population estimate has just been announced: a 22% decrease from last season in an area covering 2.21 hectares, or roughly 5.46 acres. For reference, a football field is about 1.3 acres.
Over the past few years, these estimates have taken us on an emotional rollercoaster, but the biggest lesson I’ve learned following these danaus data dumps is that…this estimate can be wildly inaccurate.
Look no further than 2018’s curiously low estimate as an example:
From spring 2018 through the fall migration, sightings were way up for the eastern population, including spectators seeing clusters of migrating monarchs in trees….virtually unheard of during the spring migration.
So how could this estimate have been so wrong?
Scientists measure the population in hectares but one hectare can hold between 10 and 50 million monarchs…that creates a massive margin of error. And consider this..
It took decades for searching scientists to find the monarchs’ overwintering grounds…how far-fetched is it that there could still be hidden populations of overwintering monarchs between central Mexico and the southern US?
Other questions to ponder when considering the accuracy of the eastern population estimate:
- Are more monarchs overwintering in the southern and coastal regions of the eastern US?
- What implications does drought have in Texas and further south into Mexico?
- Are pesticide use and mosquito spraying during the fall migration killing off more monarchs? ☠️
- What’s ultimately more important for the 2023 monarchs: Overwintering Population Estimate or Spring Migration Weather Patterns?
- Are researchers using advances in technology to increase count reliability?
- Are there potentially low-tech counting solutions that could provide better accuracy? e.g.: counting monarch eggs or larvae each spring?
While the ‘analog’ tagging of butterflies provides data on known overwintering destinations, digital advances could teach us more about flight behavior and potential alternative migration destinations in the coming years.
2018’s low population estimate ended up being unexpected good news for the eastern monarchs, but an unnecessary source of worry to their passionate support network.
So, don’t expect pinpoint accuracy from an inaccurate counting method…in mid-April, compare the first adult sightings maps on journey north for 2022 compared to previous seasons to see if this forecast adds up? Make sure to only include data for past seasons only up to the date of the current year…for example, through 5/23.
In the meantime, here are more reasons to be hopeful for the monarchs in 2023 and beyond…
The Monarch Movement
While monarch numbers have plunged over the past 2 decades, North America’s interest in their recovery has surged to an all time high.
The power of our community (magnified by social media) has brought monarchs to the forefront of wildlife conservation, and more people are taking an active role in supporting monarchs through gardening, raising butterflies, and getting involved with organizations that support monarch conservation.
Before we get started, you need to know what the monarchs are up against…
The Pollinator Problem
The North American monarch population has been in a dangerous decline over the past two decades.
Most of us are familiar with the usual suspects for the monarchs’ population decline: habitat destruction, pollinator-killing pesticides, milkweed-killing herbicides, climate change and extreme weather conditions, etc. Weather control is not an option (at this point) and stopping others’ pesticide use (barring national legislation) often proves futile, although we should embrace opportunities to respectfully educate others.
Until (and probably even after) there is irrefutable proof that specific pesticides and herbicides are killing off beneficial insects and pollinators, farmers will choose the needs of their families and businesses over the needs of milkweed butterflies.
Why not focus on the problems and solutions that you have direct control over?
5 Ways to Save Monarchs + Make This Your Best Monarch Season Ever
1. Start Growing Early
An early jump-start for your garden can be accomplished in a variety of ways starting with fall planting plants. You can also overwinter plants like tropical milkweed and take cuttings to start new plants indoors.
If those ideas sound like too much work (or it’s too late), you can always purchase plants in spring from local plant sales, nurseries, or online vendors selling both milkweed plants and nectar flowers.
Buy plants from nurseries that have their own greenhouses or can guarantee no monarch-killing pesticides have been used on your plants. We buy most of our plants from locally-sourced plant sales.
However, when local resources can’t provide you with exactly what you want, someone online usually can:
MILKWEED for Monarchs- Vendors that Ship
NECTAR PLANTS for Pollinators- Vendors that Ship
Could you find all those options at your local nursery?
What’s most important, is that you have plenty of options to support monarchs from spring through the annual fall migration by making up for the loss of milkweeds in wild areas.
2. Expand Your Milkweed Menu
Planting a variety of milkweed plants in your garden, gives you a much better chance to support monarchs throughout the entire butterfly season. Why?…because you’re likelier to always have viable milkweed leaves for caterpillars and nectar that can support adult butterflies.
Having 3-4 varieties is a good goal, but remember to choose varieties that have different growth cycles.
An effective milkweed trio for many home gardeners is common, swamp, & tropical.
3. Don’t Believe the Native Hype
I try hard not to roll my eyes (with varying degrees of success) when I come across the many articles online that say native plants will always attract and support more pollinators than their non-native counterparts.
Those who actually grow both know this isn’t always true, but some who can only see value in native plants are obsessed with convincing the world otherwise, based on second-hand info from biased books pushing an all-native agenda.
If the fear mongers win, your butterfly garden loses…and so do the butterflies!
I agree that native plants are the cornerstone to a successful garden, but I also believe that non-invasive annual plants are complementary tools that can help you attract and support even more pollinators.
My beliefs are based on my personal experience as a gardener, and talking to other butterfly gardeners across North America who are willing to try new things in a climate-changing world.
We need to recognize the opportunities in all non-invasive plants, instead of dismissing every non-native plant as public enemy #1. Just because something grew there first, doesn’t automatically make it the best solution growing forward.
While ultra-controversial butterfly bush and tropical milkweed can have potential issues in some regions of North America, they are not killing off native plants in droves, nor are they decimating the monarch population.
We need to have honest, informed, solution-based conversations about these controversial topics or they will continue to divide our community.
4. Raise Your Game
Raising monarch through the four stage life cycle (egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, adult) is a great idea for a variety of reasons. It’s educational, fun, inspirational, and it also helps to grow the struggling monarch population. It’s estimated only 1-5% of monarchs survive outdoors.
You can boost those survival odds (once you have a good raising system in place) to over 90%. During the spring and early summer months, this can also help to promote more monarch activity in your butterfly garden.
In the late summer and fall, you can release monarchs that will journey to the California coast or the mountains of central Mexico.
To learn how to raise more monarchs with less effort and at least a 90% survival rate click here
…and check out Monarch Butterfly Life to find monarch habitats, cage liners, floral tubes and other helpful raising butterflies supplies.
5. Finish with a Bang
Once you’ve perfected your raising process over the summer, you have a unique opportunity to help support one of the most amazing wildlife migrations on planet earth…the Monarch Migration.
Each July, I host an online event called Raise the Migration which helps our community members across North America raise and release the final generation of monarchs for their amazing fall migration.
This is an awe-inspiring, educational event for gardeners, schools, homeschoolers, seniors, and nature lovers. If you’re located in southern Canada or the US, you can sign up here to receive this exciting email course in August and September.
Raise The Migration Sign Up (Sign Up starts June 2023)
I’ve personally tried these 5 Monarch Attracting/Supporting Ideas in our home and garden and they’ve substantially increased our monarch visits over the past decade, in spite of the declining butterfly population. I hope these ideas will help in your quest to attract and support monarch butterflies.
Which ideas will you try to help make this your best monarch season ever? Please share your 2023 plans in the comment section below…
This year I just started to grow more milkweed from seeds our own collected seeds. Showy milkweed, swamp and butterfly weed! They are already sprouting. I have them in pots and they will go right into the monarch enclosures. In fall I will plant them into our garden.
I released 24 Monarchs last year, going for 48 this year. Last year some of my milkweed went very dark and had a sticky substance on it. I had more than a hundred flies and dozens of yellow jackets on it. How can I prevent that from happening this year?
I am in Connecticut.
Regarding native vs non native plants, you will see butterflies, bees and other insects feeding from non native plants, however, I have read that non-native plants do not provide the same level of nutrients per “sip” as do native plants. So they are not the absolute best food source.
There are a lot of fallacies about native plants vs non-native that are spread around the internet to try and get people to comply with the native-only mentality. Based on my experience over the years, and talking to other experienced gardeners, I see value in planting both.
I have several varieties of milkweed: common, swamp, tropical and balloon. I started a new garden in our lot next door. It struggled a little because the soil is more clay, but I’m working on that this Spring. I saved most of my seed pods to throw in the woods next to my house; hopefully, more monarchs this year!
I live in Bryan/College Station Texas. I did not have any problems until last year. I had a couple of early Monarchs and the caterpillars didn’t make it. Then about a month later there were butterflies again and the chrysalises died. I don’t uses any pesticides. What could be my problem?
Hi Barb, if there was no pesticide exposure this is likely due to bacteria or virus
I am just starting the milkweed planting this year. The few that I have are blooming, they are the “Tropical” variety. I just read to “cut them down NOW!!” to prevent OE spread. I researched this and am wondering if everyone cuts milkweed to ground at this time of year? I am so confused! HELP!!
Hi Brenda, for more info about OE and monarchs check out this post and this post
I am interested in the Raise the Migration event and the email course.
Hi Marilyn, you can sign up for the newsletter that includes raise the migration emails on our home page:
Thanks for the article about milkweed cuttings; I am in growing Zone 9a and have only been raising monarchs for one year. I planted tropical milkweed in March/April 2019 and had monarchs laying eggs on the plants as I planted them! In spring 2019, I hatched about 50 monarchs but, since my bed is only about 5’x12′, there was some disease that I didn’t realize was happening during June/July. I cut back the milkweed and composted really well and it grew back to about 5′ by October/November. I didn’t realize the monarchs would start coming back in fall but they did on their way back to Mexico. I had about 100 butterflies and the caterpillars ate every bit of the milkweed leaves. I cut it back again and we had a mild winter here so it grew back to about 2′ by early March. The monarchs were early this year and I had over 150 monarchs hatch by mid-May. Again, they ate everything so I cut it back again, composted, and fertilized. I covered it with netting to keep butterflies out and now it’s about 5′ tall again.
I’d like to uncover it but am afraid the butterflies won’t hatch in the heat of the summer; I need your advice since I’m fairly new at this. Should I go ahead and uncover it now and let the butterflies lay eggs? I’ll then cut it back in the fall and cover it again so I don’t have winter monarchs; they were tough to keep alive. After that I’ll take some cuttings and keep them going in pots until spring. Thanks for your advice!
Hi Kathy, monarch caterpillars can survive the summer heat as long as the milkweed is still viable. sounds like your patch is ready to be uncovered…good luck!
I’m trying something different this year. We mulched the garden to see if it will keep the milkweed cleaner after it rains. Last year we had trouble with dirt splattering up on the plants so hopefully this will keep them cleaner for the cats. It will be an added bonus if it cuts down on the weeding and watering, too. I’ll let you know how it works out.
Update: It is May 28th and Mexico is seeing 3x the number of Monarchs and that has spread up to SoCal where I live. I have noticed a sharp increase in sightings as well. This just goes to show all the gloom and doom reported isn’t always accurate. Let’s take a moment to thank God for the butterfly. What an awesome creature so essential to the eco system! The monarch population will ebb and flow but in the West it is flourishing. Last year at my New Hampshire home I noticed a large number as well even though the official reports were down. I would suggest some intentional or unintentional skewed numbers. In NH, the three years prior showed varied sightings but last year seemed the height for me personally. My NH home is very rural so keep that in mind. My Cali home is very urban though and still, as long as there is green, plants, and flowers…the Monarchs come.
Thanks for the tip. I’ll try this too. I have problems with my Tuberosa growing so low and horizontally just above the soil. A good rain and its covered in sand/dirt. I have access to pine straw. I’ll try this in one area. Thanks!
My tropical milkweed plants are peeking up from the dirt already. I’ve started them in the greenhouse so they’re protected from the weather, but I open the greenhouse door daily so they can catch a breeze and not grow leggy. All the plant nurseries are closed right now until at least May 1st but we should be OK until then. Lots of the perennial plants are coming up in the butterfly garden already (cones, blankets, daisies, garlic, etc). Still waiting on the perennial milkweed to come back. I’m looking forward to this project again!
I have a 1 acre lot that is dedicated to butterflies. Right now I think there are over 100+ I have around 100 milkweed plants (2 varieties) and other host plants for Swallowtail and other varieties.
Hi Justin! If you have a full-sun spot, try planting some annual dill plants if you haven’t already. They get huge in size but are a Swallowtail favorite host plant, especially if you plant them near flowers.
Greetings from Dana Point California!
My milk weeds in our backyard are so ready for for the Monarch to lay their eggs. I hope they will come anytime now.
Last Nov. 2015, I planted 2 milkweed Plants.
These are the number of the butterflies who completed the process:
2019- 143 ( last year was very busy for me but very fulfilling)
With the seeds, I have more than two now, probably 15 Milkweeds Plants.
Thanks for your time. God bless you,
This is our 3rd season raising monarchs. First season was best. Last season lots of death. I’m guessing the tachnid fly and possibly OE? This season. 8 of 11 eggs hatched. The remaining eggs left on the milkweed in the garden never hatched stayed black. The remainder caterpillars have been dying. I’m down to 3. It’s seems like they get stuck moving into next instar. The seem to vomit and writh. I introduced to new milkweed plants from joyful butterfly but the caterpillars are still alive. I have no idea what’s going on. I Lysol’d my butterfly cage and floral tubes from last year.
Good news a monarch laid 35 eggs and this time I collected all I could find. Please advise on how I can have 100% success given the current history.
Thanks a ton!!!
Stay safe everyone,
Magdalena D. Lowery
Hi Magdalena, sorry to hear you are having some issues. Black eggs that don’t hatch are probably the result of trichogramma wasps
Vomiting and green discharge is a symptom of exposure to chemicals or pesticides. Joyful butterfly don’t use chemicals on plants, but is it possible there is other spraying going on in your area or something ‘natural’ being used like neem oil?
I have about 5 chrysalises that I overwintered in my garage. I live near Trenton NJ and wonder when they may be emerging. Few plants are budding here. I’d think they’d wait until the Milkweed and other supporting plants are in bloom but worry that they’ll emerge and I’ll need to support them some other way. Any tips?
Hi Kay, as long as they don’t eclose super early (being kept in an abnormally warm place) I would not worry about it. they can get nutrients through minerals in the soil and drink water from plant leaves and other props from nature. good luck!
Hello, hope you all are staying safe and happy. I have alot of questions. I live near Houston, and I have a stream next to my house. I know that Aquatic Milkweed is native to my area, so I am planning to plant it next to the stream. My questions are: Do aquatic milkweed seeds need to be cold stratified? And when is a good month to plant them next to the stream? The weather here starts getting around 70 – 80 degrees in March, with some nights 50 degrees. Sorry for bugging you with these questions and I hope everyone’s safe. Thank you
Hi, A. perennis is perennial to warm regions and does not need cold treatment…you can soak for 24 hours to soften seed coat and speed up germination. You can plant any time…good luck!
I just wanted to give you a heads up. I live on the Gulf Coast of central Florida above Tampa. I have several species of Milkweed with Tropical the dominant. Gumphocarpus and a Giant MW. Plus I have Common stratifying in the fridge.
My plants are Loaded with eggs. I have some with 4 -5 eggs on leaves. so the season looks good.
I do not have the time to bring eggs and cats inside as I have in the past.
I allow them to feed to a late instar and then protect them inside. But those guys are voracious eaters.
Hello. I am in the same area as you and I am a newbie at all of this. Planted 35 tropical milkweed from seeds. They grew, got planted and then the caterpillars INHALED them ALL!! LOL. I have been to a local nursery for more plants but I am unable to keep up with feeding all of them. I am getting more seeds so maybe I will be better prepared for next year. Any tips or suggestions about either growing in our area or should I try to bring the eggs inside a net or anything else? I would love to see more of them. Thank you.
I take these estimates with a grain of salt. First it’s an estimate, second it’s measured by hectares which includes a huge margin of error. Maybe there’s other unknown overwintering sites.
I’m going stir crazy under lockdown! I can’t wait for spring so I can at least have something to do in the yard and start up my butterfly nursery on the porch. I planted garlic near the milkweed plants last fall so we’ll see how that does in keeping the aphid population down this year. All the perennial milkweed should come back on it’s own and I started the tropical milkweed in the house already. I just need better weather so I can get this project started again.
Hi Tony. I enjoy reading your articles very much. I tried to raise some Monarchs last year by bringing the milkweed into my screened patio. I got caterpillars and chrysalides, but no butterflies! The chrysalides turned black and simply fell to the ground. I am going to leave them in the garden this year and hope for the best. My question is whether it is too late to cut back my tropical milkweed now. I have not seen any butterflies yet this season, but I don’t want to deprive them of the milkweed if there is a risk that the plants won’t grow back and bloom by the time the butterflies arrive.
Hi Rita, pathogens can build up on plants in continuous growing regions. I would cut back now while you still have the opportunity…it grows back quickly
I started my Hello Yellow and Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa about two weeks ago. I have 2 inch seedlings that I will be planting outside in North Texas in approximately 5 weeks at the end of March/early April. We have many bunnies in our yard, will I need to protect the seedlings from the bunnies or should I wait longer to plant outside? Seedlings are currently under a grow light on a heat mat.
Hi Rose, if rabbits are an issue, I would definitely consider puttting up some rabbit fencing. We have it around ALL our gardens now and it has made a huge difference:
This great, With These Tips, The Monarchs will be saved
I live in Vancouver BC, Canada and bought me Swamp Milkweed seeds and Butterfly Bush Milkweed Seeds from a local store. I can not find the conditions in which to grow these seeds. I have generally neutral soil, in winter a cool/wet climate and in summer a hot/dry climate and lots of shade from neighbouring trees in my urban garden. Will these seeds grow in my garden?
Hi Kathi, both of these species should grow in your region…milkweed can tolerate partial shade. Here’s more info about both species:
I’m grateful for your website and email tips. I am a beginner monarch enthusiast, have a few milkweed and host/ food plants and I’m hoping to expand this year. I am interested in hard copies of your publications when available.
Thanks Ron….the raising guide will be available as a hard copy in 2019. Will post when I have more details
Hello, I love in N.E. Florida an dhave been following you now for 3 years. I want to have built an enclosed walk in butterfly house, like they have ay my local nursery to let the bigs cats loose. It would be easy to keep clean and would with stand the strong winds we have during our rainstorms. Also, This would be easier for me as I have a larger garden and can use cuttings. I would either have to paint the wood or use pressure treated lumbar. Any tips on this?
Hi Charlene, I would post a facebook group to find people that raise outside and see what’s working best for them:
Monarch Facebook Groups
I’m getting ready to start several varieties of milkweed in the greenhouse in mid March here in Michigan. My question is one of the varieties is a tropical annual called Mexican bloodweed. Should this tropical be started later than the rest? Nothing will go into the ground outside until after the frost is over mid April but I don’t know how sensitive the tropical will be in zone 6a.
Is scarlet milkweed good for monarchs? P. S. They came from home depot.
Hi Floyd, that’s tropical milkweed…you can read more about it here:
Beware of Home Depot. I bought MW from them last year. They swore they never sprayed with pesticides. 3 hrs after I put a dozen cats on it I had a dozen dead cats. The local HD person seemed genuine but obviously their supplier had treated the plants.
They don’t grow ’em & don’t really know what’s on ’em.
It is interesting to note that there are a variety of milkweed plants that I should be planting, instead of just the one variety I have that I am spreading on my acreage.
We have had a very warm winter and my milkweed wintered well. I gathered a bunch of seeds and in FL I am not sure when to plant them. I have a medium butterfly garden right by my sunroom, but it hosts a ton of geckos which l ok very the eggs, so I have to bring them indoors and raise them in enclosures which I have 3 large and 1 small. I am so looking forward to this season
Sorry that didn’t post right.. Geckos love eggs.
Those geckos are actually anoles and they search the plants for caterpillars, just like the wasps do. My neighbor built me two raising cages using lanai screening, to which I have added shade covers. I had 64 successful enclosures in January, then saw almost nothing in February. I am just south of Tampa and use curasavicca because that’s all that grows here in winter.
In 2017 I planted milkweed in the fall along side Gallardia (Goblin variety) as well as Echinacea and other large bloom nectar plants. After wild take off and growth I found myself hosting more than 50 monarchs by fall. The hatch rate hit 100% before heavy rains destroyed the stragglers. I lost a total of 5. This gives me hope that an increase in the plants I used last year will see a more productive breeding this year. I don’t have the space or patience to raise them indoors, but I am capable of luring them to my plot and away from the trees so lets keep our fingers crossed for this year to be bountiful.
Help please. I’m disheartened. I had more than 2 dozen chrysalis at my home and they never matured. Plus for the first time I had a caterpillar that began its transition and die with just a bit of chrysalis formed. Is my milkweed bad and harming these beautiful creations?
Hi Debbie, if you live in a continuous growing region, pathogens can build up on plants so it’s a good idea to cut them down to 6-12″ so fresh growth can emerge
I started growing milkweed a couple of years ago for the monarchs, but didn’t start following you until last year. This new article has made what you do even more important.
My husband used to say ‘i was nuts gardening for ‘pests’ that just eat the plants; he is the one who forwarded me the article and congratulated me on trying to do my part to ‘Raise the Migration’ for Monarchs for our great grandchildren in generations to come.
I live in So. Cal. and have monarch cats right now that I am trying to protect from the birds; I’m building an enclosure, but may also go ahead and buy some of the big cages. I learned my lesson two years ago when I went to Home Depot to buy more milkweed for the cats and all 20 died because the Vigro brand had pesticide in it…I now seed my own, or buy from a local organic grower. Do all the various species of milkweed in the variety packs you sell grow in So Cal? Thank you for what you do!
Hi Jennifer, I’m happy to hear you are getting involved. I don’t sell plants/seeds but link to suggested stores on the blog. You might also want to check out this page for resources in your region:
Western Monarch Resources
2018 was the year I discovered that rabbits will decimate not only Poke, but Prairie, Showy, Purple, Redring and Clasping Milkweed. All my 10 gardens are in raised beds and if I don’t figure this out by spring, I’m not sure what I will do. I already have Spider, Short and Tall Green Milkweed seedlings, and in a few weeks my Oval Leaf and Purple Milkweed seeds will be ready. I think my only option is to put fencing around each garden, but looking for other ideas.
Hi Michael, we put up rabbit fencing a couple years ago and wish we would have done it years sooner…the upfront effort is worth the long term benefit to have a permanent solution!
I put the 2 foot plastic fencing around my raised bed. I just stapled it onto the wood and it has kept the bunnies away.
We’re planning to slightly expand the size of our butterfly garden this year (5 varieties of milkweed again, plus bunches of nectar flowers). Here in southwestern Pennsylvania we raised 4 Monarchs the first year, 34 the second, 168 the third, and 250 last year. Hangin’ in there.
I recently moved to Pinellas Park, Florida, near Tampa. I am unsure of the possibility of helping the monarchs here, not sure of the type of milkweed I should purchase anywhere! Any help/suggestions will be appreciated
Hi Carol, if you’re just getting started check out this post:
Starting a Butterfly Garden
Florida Milkweed Info
Hi Carol. I am in St. Pete and starting my 2nd year of raising monarchs…I even released two this week. It seems to be year round in our area. I would love to help you.
Since I live at the northern part of the north American continent, and I am new to this venue, I am struggling with finding plants that support and encourage monarch butterflies to my garden. I have a small space and always enjoy sitting in the garden to observe natural life in the area. Any suggestions on developing a monarch garden space welcomed.
Hi Susan, if you are just getting started, check out this post for some ideas:
Start a Monarch Butterfly Garden
Thank you so much for my prize! I have everything now and have ordered the milkweed plants! I am so beyond excited to help with the Monarch Butterfly population!
I saw your list of usual suspects that contribute to monarch population decline. I have to disagree. I haven’t lost one single monarch to pesticides (and my community sprays for various pests) or weather. Nearly all my losses have been due to parasitoids. The rest of my losses (very few) have been due to disease.
I try to grab the caterpillars and rear them in sleeves after the 2nd instar. But any that i miss are nearly guaranteed to be hosting flies or wasps.
So it almost doesn’t matter that i have a forest of milkweed, and monarchs are laying dozens of eggs per day. Before i blame monsanto or climate change, I’m blaming pathogens and predators that have been introduced as biological controls for other species, but have generalized to prey on non-target species.
At least that’s how it goes in my garden.
What do you mean, Mike, when you say that you had to raise them in sleeves?
I feel your pain Mike. I too have struggled with the parasites so to combat that I bring in Only Freshly laid eggs and that has been very helpful. For disease I always make sure to clean the leaves before feeding to cats but disease is not visible and the moms laying the eggs can be passing it on. I had a higher number of viable monarchs for 2018 and hopefully even better 2019. I keep trying and keep reading all of Tony’s information which has been very helpful for my success rate. I recently purchased a “pocket microscope “ which I hope will help me to identify some diseases that are afflicting a monarch that is clearly not progressing properly. Wish me luck !
What about the bleach solution to kill o.e.?
Hi tony, Nice to get emails from you again:)
I started raising butterflies on 2015, we had 34, in 2016 we released 30, and in 2017 we had 44. We released 165 monarchs on 2018 🙂 thanks to my son’s help, we both were taking turns morning and evenings feeding those hungry little cats, it was lot of work, but we were so happy doing it. In September we had LOTS of butterflies in our backyard, I had lots and lots of Mexican sunflowers and some butterfly bushes, it was so AMAZING to be able to see so many flying around . We lost a few cats that we got from the backyard, 1 chrysalis, and 2 butterflies that had problems with their wings and couldn’t fly, that was very sad. Let’s make our best this year!. Best wishes to all nature lovers:)
Just to let everyone know, I have been storing my trop milkweed seeds in my garage for the winter over the last five years or so. After harvest, I spread them in a cardboard box to dry before putting them in jars with airtight lids. Unfortunately, this year mice ate all of my seeds before I had a chance to put them in jars. I would never have expected that to happen so wanted to warn others. Thankfully, I did leave a few seed pods on the plants hoping for some self seeding in the Spring. I brought them inside to dry and they are now in airtight jars until Spring arrives. I was so disappointed as I had so many seeds saved and was planning to give them to everyone I know that gardens.
I will never not have Mexican Sunflowers in my gardens. All of the pollinators love it!
I purchased a tagging packet last year, but after reading how the tagged butterflies were monitored/recovered for tracking info, my husband refused to use them. He wonders that since a tagged monarch was “worth more” than an untagged one, it isn’t such a jump in logic that maybe the tagged monarchs are captured or killed to get their tag number. He thinks that the tag is a virtually a death sentence to a monarch.
Can you respond to this?
Hi Sandy, I can’t speak to whether that would ever be an issue, but I do think advances in tagging are needed to help us understand flight behavior, and perhaps uncover alternative migration destinations. I do think the tagging program raises awareness of the monarch conservation efforts which is a good thing, but if you feel uneasy about it, there are other ways to help support the monarch population.
Thank you for all the great information. Thanks for being concerned and positive at the same time. I am doing my best trying to help the Monarch population.
One of my concerns is that the beginning of the season goes well, then as we get to the middle and end of summer, my plants seem to attract a lot of insects that go after the Monarch eggs, and cats. Is there any way to keep these beneficial insects around without them killing off the eggs and cats?
Happy New Year Tony!
So appreciate all the great educational content of this site and all your time nurturing it for the kings and queens of the butterflies.
I am the author of “Trenton and the Magical Milkweed”, an educational children’s book about the Monarchs. , their plight and the importance of Milkweed in their life cycle. It is the first in a series of 2 books. Second book will be “Trenton and the Magical Journey”, the migration to Mexico.
This book will be released on March 14, 2019– National Learn About Butterflies Day. A portion of the proceeds for each book will be donated to the cause of saving the monarchs.
I have referenced your site in my book as one devoted to educating further about the Monarchs.
Excited for the success of this book and more importantly, doing my part in educating and supporting the Monarchs.
Regina L. Paul
Hi Jeri, a healthy ecosystem is made of of both monarchs and their predators and the predators help keep numbers manageable. Check out some ideas on this page for what you can do if predators are getting out of control:
Monarch Predators and Solutions
First off, Thank you for this educational and informative site. Last fall, I raised about 60/120 caterpillars. Tachnid flies were the worst. This year, I will begin an early search for eggs and try to increase my ratio of success. Happily, in my striving to make known the monarch plight, through education and just my personal conversations, my son’s school is beginning a monarch milkweed planting project, supported by a local company! So, while this started small, I’m thinking big. This, along with my local commmunity doing a combined pollinator awareness day in June 2019, which will promote care for bees, butterflies, bats, etc. I couldn’t be happier. We are all making a difference and these grassroots movements can be organic and supported. Good luck to our precious monarchs and like-minded friends for 2019. Thanks again Tony.
In the late summer of 2017 I found my first cats, brought them indoors and improvised a system to raise them. I was able to release five monarchs. Last season I discovered cats in early June and started using the same system. By July I had so many eggs, cats and chrysalis that using my system proved to be overwhelming so I purchased a large and small habitat. They made everything manageable and I released 124 monarchs, 55 of which were part of the migration.
I have common and swamp milkweed seeds in my refrigerator (many in gauze bags to give to friends) and a tropical milkweed indoors. I look forward to the 2019 season.
Hi Tony, just when I was thinking to ask you about the confusing numbers of the migrating Monarchs, your email arrived!!!!!
I started my Monarch garden in 2017. My largest “brood” has only been 13 but it was a wonderful experience a d I plan on continuing. I have shared my experiences on our local neighborhood social media page and had a wonderful response to people who are interested in helping the Monarch population. In February/March, I plan on having a tutorial at our local library for those who are interested in raising the Monarchs.
Your page is responsible for teaching me everything I know about raising Monarchs successfully! I plan on sharing that to my newcomers.
I’m looking forward to Spring, although its snowing like crazy here in the “QUEEN CITY” of Cincinnati Ohio, Spring WILL come!!!
Thank you Tony for your all that you do for these amazing creatures of God. I look forward to sharing my experience with you 2019 a d the success of our newcomers this Spring!!????
I didn’t realize on the West Coast the Monarchs keep laying eggs through the winter months. Guess I thought they went south for the winter.
It’s not to bad during the day but gets cold – cold for us 50-52 degrees – starting late afternoon so I started using my butterfly cage. They spend the day outside and rest of time in bathroom.
I have 12 chrysalis hanging and about 9 more still eating and growing!
I still have some tropical milkweed …. but not a lot.
So today I read in the Daily News 1-3-19 that , as we knew the bee and Monarchs count is way down. Environments California’s Dan Jacobson says it is largely due to pesticides- particularly neonicotineoids use and disappearing habitats.
He suggested that one answer is for cities and people to grow plants these creatures rely on. Individual people taking action.
Love your site.
Marina del Rey, California
PS : I released 3 Monarch’s in the last week and have 21 chrysalis hanging. At this time
I too live in So. Calif. and thought Monarchs migrated, but have14 almost ready to fly., once this rain stops.
We are in Rockwood, Ontario an hour or so north west on Toronto. My neighbor and I started raising Monarchs quite by chance this year. We also planted Dill, Rue, Fennel and Parsley and had Yellow Swallowtail cats on all. We raised about twenty of each and even had a couple giants.. Banner year for us. Plan on continuing this coming summer. I am planning on adding tulip tree, sassafras, hop tree and spice bush, all native to southern Ontario to try to get Spicebush swallowtails as well … can’t wait to start again …..
I live in the central coast region of California, and I visited the Pismo Butterfly Preserve this past week (January 9, 2019). I saw few butterflies over-wintering, alas. Besides the year-round fires, about ten days ago we got some much needed rain but also got powerful winds that downed trees and I think swept up butterflies in its path. I found one such butterfly on my patio.
I’m planting more native milkweeds in the garden, adding to the three or four native varieties I planted last year. It takes native milkweeds a while to get their footing, so I have tropical milkweed in pots to provide early, abundant food.
I read an April 2018 report from the Ecological Society of America that said the curassavica (tropical variety) milkweed typically has a good level of glycosoids for Monarch caterpillars but, if it grows in high temperatures, the levels of glycosoids rises dramatically, which negatively impacts the health of Monarchs. This negative impact was not seen in the native milkweed tested because the glycosides were lower. The report focuses on rising temperatures as a result of climate change and how that affects Monarchs. Here’s a link if you’d like to see the report: https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ecy.2198
Interestingly, the Monarchs and their milkweed may have to move northward as the climate in our region continues to grow hotter.
Until my native milkweeds are sufficient, I’ll continue to supplement with currasavica, but I’ll cut it down three times a year to help reduce infection rates. I’ve seen one or two chrysalides in the past couple of years that looked like they were infected with NPV. Those numbers aren’t too bad, I suppose, but I’d rather not see that if possible.
My problem when cutting milkweed back is managing the eggs and caterpillars that are on the sections I want to remove. I relocate the cats and hope I don’t miss any. If I can, I bring in the eggs to rear them indoors, but I can’t always do that because my cat cage is already occupied. It’s a bit of a dilemma. If anyone has any ideas about this, I’d appreciate hearing them.
Meanwhile, thank you, Tony, for continuing to motivate us. These beautiful creatures are inspiring.
As a brief update, I’ve seen a few Monarchs fluttering around the neighborhood along with the usually early arriving Cloudless Sulphur. I can’t remember seeing Monarchs inland in January before.
So maybe more Monarchs over-wintered away from the coast this year.
Best wishes to all and to the butterflies this year!
I have brought in only caterpillars to raise in the past, not being sure that I could find eggs, but this past year I saw a Monarch laying eggs, and went out later that afternoon and brought 12 inside. I initially put them in a plastic container with a lid, following the directions for caring for Monarch eggs. When the tiny caterpillars emerged I kept them in the plastic container until they got big enough to start eating all the leaves. I then put them in a small butterfly cage I had purchased just for those raised from eggs. I wanted to see how well they did, not having been exposed to any parasites or larger caterpillars. It worked very well! These were much healthier looking caterpillars, and I lost only one to an accident. The remaining 11 developed and matured into beautiful butterflies. My other cage had about 43 caterpillars. I lost at least 12 to parasites. It’s so upsetting to lose any cats. If you bring in eggs and cats, I would separate them and keep them in separate cages.
I’m Rosemary, from Newmarket, Ontario (an hour north of Toronto, in north-central Ontario).
I began raising and releasing Monarch butterflies in 2017, when I became largely housebound in my battle with Lyme Tick Disease (10 years 8 months). Though I live in a suburb (I have a non-GMO, organic garden in my tiny townhouse backyard) I’m lucky to live within 25 kms of 38 provincial conservation authority forest, creeks and savannah fields, which I visit commencing mid-June in search of Monarch eggs and juniors.
In 2017, I successfully released 66 healthy Monarchs, (half males, half females), and included my then 3-year old grandson and the neighbourhood children and local homeschooling groups in that process. It was GREAT FUN and a GREAT EDUCATION!
In 2018, I aimed to double my release numbers, but I actually did better than that, by releasing 314 healthy Monarchs, with males outnumbering females by a small percentage. Again, I involved neighbourhood children and my grandson and new grand daughter. I found 7 more conservation areas to visit, remote from heavy trafficked highways, in which to collect eggs and caterpillars, and later release Monarchs. I was so happy to discover the opening of a half-mile square new Aurora Arboretum (recovered from an industrial complex, and is slowly being restored to its natural state with the help of many volunteers) and I broadcast approximately 4 dry litres worth of common purple-flower native milkweed seeds I harvested the previous autumn in the fields and near the Humber River stream. A large percentage of the milkweed seeds germinated, and the Arboretum has dedicated several acres to milkweed flower cultivation.
This year, 2019, my New Year’s resolution is to release at least 500 Monarchs. I have also dedicated approximately 36 square feed of garden space in my backyard for an organic pollinator flower and milkweed garden, three times bigger than the garden I started for pollinators last summer. It was SO GRATIFY(ING to see Monarchs, and also Swallowtails, in my backyard, after nearly 6 years of not spotting ANY butterflies in my backyard! I also planted a dill herb plot, which attracted one Swallowtail caterpillar late in the season. I still have the chrysalis in the house, in the hopes it will emerge this spring. I hope to do some Swallowtail releases this summer as well.
I harvested about 8 dry litres of milkweed seeds last fall, donated a couple litre’s worth to local schools for their Monarch butterfly gardens. The rest of the seeds I will be broadcasting again at the Arboretum, and in forests that my dogs and I visit weekly in York Region.
I pledge to do my part to add to the growth of the Monarch population. I spent summers on my grandparents’ farm near Leamington, Ontario (at the southernmost tip of the province) and remember well the “clouds” of Monarchs that would fly over my grandfather’s tomato fields en route to their resting ground at Point Pelee National Park, before flying over the Great Lakes to Monterrey, Mexico. Not since the mid-60’s have I seen Monarchs in such massive numbers, but with our collective help, maybe we can make that dream a reality again.
All the best to you, with thanks for your webpage and resources, and wishes for much success, to my fellow Monarch butterfly lovers and releasers, in North America, and beyond.
2018 was a good year for my Butterfly Garden. I released 103 Monarchs which was a record for me. For 2019 I have started 3 more milkweed patches and several new Flower gardens . I have plans to increase the number of flowers in the yard and have convinced the subdivision to STOP spraying the roadsides down our lane. We live in a country subdivision with minimum 3 acre lots so that gives me lots of space for wildflowers and annuals to grow. All 4 neighbors on our lane have agreed not to spray or mow the roadsides also. Hoping for an even more outstanding year in 2019!Carol
Here in Fallbrook, California, I released 372 healthy Monarch Butterflies in 2018. Already in 2019 as of Jan 10th, I have released 7 healthy butterflies and have 24 chrysalides. I don’t have any eggs right now (rain and cold have prevented me from looking), but when the weather clears, I’m sure I’ll find plenty.
Hi Marianne!! Having success as well here in Westminster SoCal … wondering … I presently have about 30 chrysalides and some have been gestating over 3 weeks … was told it has much to do with the cold … they are a beautiful healthy green … have you experienced any lengthy periods as well due to cold and rain??
I live in Hermosa Beach (near LAX) and yes it does take longer when it’s cold. I have one chrysalid and two eating cats (once it warms up in the morning)–hoping I have enough milkweed left as I recently cut down most so they would resprout. Good luck.
We increased our numbers from 18 first year to 103 released our second year. Setting up our new indoor green houses & starting our seeds, today!! Adding 2 new varieties this year: swamp milkweed, torch flowers. We already have huge success with our common, butterfly weed and bloodflowers. We had over 35 cats on 1 orange butterfly weed last year. They have been a cat favorite for the last 5 years. Happy raising!!
After watching females lay eggs in previous years and never finding any caterpillars, 2 years ago I brought the eggs inside and successfully raised and released 9 monarchs. Sadly, last summer I didnt see a single monarch. I live in the west and cannot order eggs or caterpillars here. My city has a monarch monitoring program in which I have participated but my fear is that we are going to monitor while the species slips away. It seems like more aggressive efforts are warranted. Do you think people in the west will be able to help soon?
Hi Sue, I wish I knew what to say about the situation out west…it is perplexing and I hope experts are able to discover what factors are contributing to the lack of butterfly population. I agree that more aggressive efforts should be considered, but not before the problem is better understood.
I have a fondness for native plants (especially love that they are perennial & that they spread). I live in Minneapolis, and so most of my gardens contain common milkweed, butterfly weed, partridge prairie pea plants, echinachae, etc.
a couple of years ago, though, I flung a handful of zinnia seeds to fill in some gaps in between my plants and the Monarchs loved them.
As an aside, Japanese beetles pretty much decimated my grass last summer, so I am going to experiment with flowering ground covers.
This will be my first year to really get involved in helping Monarchs. Last year I built a greenhouse in the back yard, purchased lots of milkweed seeds (6 varieties, 5 are perennials and one is a tropical annual.), and bought a small refrigerator for the basement that I’m using for cold wet stratification. I also purchased lots of seedling peat pots. I started the stratification process last week. I’m hoping to be able to start germinating them in the greenhouse in early March, here in Michigan, then transfer them to a large garden after the frost danger is over. The garden will be approximately 30 ft x 30 ft with the milkweed plants each 2 feet apart in rows. The parameter of the garden and also a row down the middle and another row bisecting the garden will be host plants for the caterpillars to make their chrysalis on but I’m not sure what plants to use for that yet. Those host plant rows will also be alternating every other plant with garlic plants to repel aphids. This is new to me so if anyone has helpful suggestions on what would be good host plants or any other improvements on the design, it would be greatly appreciated.
I planted about 300 of those peat pots last year. Even with regular watering, those pots did not decompose very well. We’ve had lots of times where it was above freezing and wet, followed by well below freezing temps. After several freeze/thaw cycles, several of the pots have been noticeable been pushed up out of the ground. I even have a blazing star in the fridge that was completely pushed up and out of the ground. I’d advise not using those peat pots where you have the potential for freeze/thaw cycles. I’m hoping the damage won’t be to bad but it was 60 and muddy a few days ago and now it’s 15 and snowing.
Can’t wait to begin gardening! The winters here (MI, 6A) are so dismal. My plan is 1)to raise more Monarchs (I missed my goal of 100 by 3!) 2)plant more native plants (no, I’m not fanatical about it, but providing MORE makes sense and I have plans for lots) 3)plant MW earlier (tropical) 4) plant more varieties of MW. I already plant 4 types and I’ve ordered 2 new kinds 5)become certified as a way station (my previous home was) 6)MAYBE try tagging a few Monarchs around migration time.
Just raised our first monarchs in the Florida Keys.
We are on Galveston Bay, TX and here mid January, our Monarch population is booming. Apparently they didn’t get the memo to continue on to Mexico. We have milkweed planted in our front flowerbeds and they swoop and play all day. They greet all visitors to our front door which delights and surprises everyone. Amazing.
I am the Conservation chairman of the Amherst, VA Woman’s Club. We gave out “Trick or Treat” milkweed seeds to every member ( about 85) in October 2018.
Doing my part here in Indiana! I have a certified wildlife habitat and I’m a registered monarch waystation in my backyard garden. I plant milkweed and have never (will never) use pesticides. I have sources of nectar continuously blooming from spring well into fall. Last year, I successfully raised 35 monarchs and This was after a late start. My goal this year is 50!
We bought 2 habitats & made a small one (our first) We just freed our second Monarch. It is January in Florida but all 9 of the chrysalis are doing well.
We bought every milkweed we could find at 3 local nurseries & I have cuttings going too. Plus I have been sowing seeds on porch & outside.
The article ” 5 Ways to Make This Your Best Monarch Year Ever” includes helpful advice about buying plants from community spring plant sales. For Minnesotans, thanks for mentioning the annual Friends School Plant sale at the Minnesota State Fair site. It supports the Friends School, which is a good cause, and has an incredible number of plants offered for sale. Many are “babies” and a much cheaper than plants sold commercially. The sale is always held on Mother’s Day weekend.
I live on the 2nd floor of a condo so all my milkweed is potted. I raised two caterpillars outside with netting on the milkweed plants. The Common M. Weed wasn’t very big so one caterpillar left only two small leaves towards the top and the other left nothing but a stem. I brought the caterpillars inside to finish on cuttings from other (milkweed) plants but what do I do with the eaten plants? Should I bring them inside away from direct sun and the peak temps of summer until some leaves grow back? Do I cut back the stem with no leaves at all?
Hi Vickie, I’d spray down the cuttings and soil with a hydrogen peroxide solution and then put them back out in the sun…they won’t grow/thrive if they’re kept indoors.
Does hydrogen peroxide kill OE?
Hi Suki, hydrogen peroxide kills fungus gnat eggs in soil and is also good for root health with the extra oxygen molecule. As far as I know, it does not kill OE.
Those cats are ravenous – raising butterflies really means we are farming milkweed! I have learned that cutting the bare stems back so that only 1 or 2 nodes are left is best. If you look at some plants at the nurseries, you can see how they have cut back very mature stems for the best sprouting.
I live in SW Florida 6 months. Raised 13 to pupate in December with 8 successful hatches. Upped my game to a beautiful wooden screened house on my patio and now have nearly 20 chrysalises and another 30 caterpillars chowing down on both tropical milkweed and giant milkweed, which grows in my garden. I leave the mature flowering plants out in the garden and search them daily for baby caterpillars. Also find babies on bare stems, sides of pots, other plants.
43 eggs and counting. Friends and family doing the same. We are noticing more monarchs flying here in Minnesota than in other years! Crossing our fingers that it will make a difference to the winter population numbers.
Had a successful early summer release of 26 out of 27 eggs to butterflies on my first try! I saw the female on May 9th land on most of my swamp milkweed plants I planted last year. My question is am I done for the year for collecting eggs while they fly north? I live on the Illinois side of St. Louis Mo. Or could there be some more still flying this way from the south. I’ve been looking for eggs but haven’t found any yet.
Thanks for your time,
Hi Wayne, congrats on your early success. It’s possible for you to still get eggs anytime now through the end of August…good luck!
To those of you just starting to raise monarch caterpillars/ butterflies..please do not ever spray your milkweed plants with pesticide of any kind!.. this will kill them and insure that any caterpillars left on the plant sprayed will eat toxic pesticide.. if you are having problems with Aphids… just spray them with plain water or a spray bottle with a little bit of dishwashing liquid and water in it. Your goal is to inspect your milkweed plants everyday and look for those aphids and spray them with soapy water.. it will kill them and hopefully catch them before any caterpillar/eggs hatch.
I also live very close to woods.. my next door neighbor lives right next to woods.. so I also planted some milkweed next to the woods to hope to get some milkweed going.. so far of the cuttings I planted they look to be doing fine. I’m hoping they grow big and supply food/egg laying for future monarchs, and possibly a backup supply of milkweed for my collected eggs/caterpillars
And my milkweed is tropical milkweed and golden milkweed which I believe is the same… one has red and yellow flowers and the other is yellow flowers.
Hi Tony, I am happy to say of the start of spring in Yulee,Florida from April 4th, 2018 to April 15th, 2018. I gathered 33 monarch eggs. Sadly of the 33 eggs collected, 29 hatched, one egg didn’t hatch.. comprised I believe.. and 3 caterpillars didn’t get past first instar. So as of April 23rd I have 29 caterpillars.most are in their last instar and fixing to build their silk button. This is my Second year raising monarch butterflies. Last year I released around 50 butterflies by the end of the season.. I’m hoping to release more than that this year!
Hi, I am a Life Scout looking to complete my Eagle Project which includes planting milkweed for a butterfly garden. I lived in the Northeast region of the US and the milkweed will be planted in a park near a stream. I was wondering if the milkweed would attract monarchs by itself, or if we would need to buy eggs/larvae to raise at home. We are thinking about planting 36 plants, a half-half mix of asclepius incarnata and asclepius tuberosa. If we need to buy larvae/eggs to raise, how many do you recommend we buy?
Hi Tim, it sounds like you’re planting wild habitat. Raising is optional and usually done at home or school. Incarnata and tuberosa are both good choices for planting native habitat. To get an idea of when monarchs are in your area, check the journey north website
If you’re not seeing any monarch activity and want to purchase eggs/caterpillars this spring/summer, check out the resources here…Rose Franklin is located in your region:
Monarch Eggs and Caterpillars good luck!
I appreciate your support in raising monarchs. I had a dismal year in 2018 due to OE. I’ve disinfected soil and cut plant back to the ground in my efforts to give them a chance in 2019.
I dove up to Panama City Beach last week on a caterpillar rescue mission. The FL Panhandle has been stripped of foliage and protective forests.
Today I have 77 healthy chrysalides expected to be butterflies in the next week. We still have flowers on the penta and the fire bush so they’ll have some nectar when the time to release comes. Winter’s not over in Gainesville FL but I’m hoping they’ll head south. Thanks again for your valuable support and guidance.
I live in South Florida. I ha e the native milkweed and they love it. My question is what time of year do they lay their eggs?
hi Karen, you’re likely to have more activity in the winter/spring monarchs before the oppressive heat, but you could host all year with favorable weather patterns. I’m not sure which native variety you have planted, but you’re more likely to get eggs when the plants are putting out fresh growth.
Any recommendations for a drought-resistant milkweed that will grow in zone 11, Florida Keys? The tropical Asclepias curassavica grows fine, but I’d like to try some others that will have a chance of survival. I’ve never seen any but the curassavica growing here. I guess it won’t be easy to germinate them. Advice? Thanks.
Hi Ellen, for region specific milkweed plants, facebook groups are a good way to connect with local gardeners. Otherwise, do a google search for Florida native milkweed.
For most warm-weather milkweed seed germination can be sped up/increased by soaking seeds in water for 24 hours before planting.
We need to save them
Hi Tony. I am attempting to create a butterfly, be and hummingbird sanctuary in my small less than 1 acre land. I have the three milkweed plant seeds that you have mentioned prior. I have never grown milkweed before. I am very nervous as I really want to help the monarch butterflies so badly. My fear is I do not know anything of what I am doing because I only started growing flowers last year. The majority of my flowers were sunflowers from black oil that I bought for the bird feeders and marigolds. I do have many types of pollinator friendly seeds but will only start my next bed with approximately 5 plants to begin with. I believe you stated the common milkweed will take over? Thank you very much for your response in advance dear.
Hi Dottie, if you’re growing over an acre, it sounds like you might want the milkweed to spread and common milkweed could be a good option. Check out the planting a field for pollinators link in this post:
Starting a Butterfly Garden
I started three types of milkweed (common, showy and swamp) from seeds inside under grow lights about 6 weeks ago. I now realize that I started too early and have had to repot twice. But the plants look good and some are now 7-8 inches tall. When they were about 3-4 inches tall I noticed some flying bugs that looked like aphids on them. Without thinking I got some bug spray with permethrin in it and lightly sprayed them. It got the bugs. Then it dawned on me. Now my concern is will these plants be safe for the Monarchs when I set them out in May? Will spraying them with water wash it off or do the plants take the chemical into their systems?
I have plenty of stratified seed left and enough time, should I start over again?
Hi Kay, unless permethrin is a systemic pesticide, you should be ok just rinsing off the plants.
My milkweed has tons of eggs on them (tiny black dots) .. I have 2 questions
1. when can I take clippings and move to a ‘cage’ so that I can have caterpillars make their chrysalis in side that habitat? Do I need to wait for large caterpillars?
2. My mom gets chrysalis all around her home my caterpillars leave and do it elsewhere .. any advise on how I can encourage them to stay?
Hi Holly, if there is enough milkweed, monarchs typically lay eggs singly and not in bunches…take a look at some egg photos to make sure you are seeing monarch eggs:
Monarch Egg Photos It’s typically best to bring in eggs or baby caterpillars because there’s less chance of disease and/or parasites.
As for forming chrysalides, the caterpillars crawl to the safest place they can find. here are some places you can search:
50 Places to look for a chrysalis outdoors
I want to tag my butterflies this year. How do I get the tags?
Hi Marsha, you can get info about tagging butterflies here:
Monarch Watch Tagging Program
I am a Garden Educator in Alameda, CA and this is the first year I have collected Monarch caterpillars. We raised and released 16, and watched more grow naturally in the butterfly garden. I teach the students about the different stages of the butterfly and their host plants. I show them how to collect the seeds and plant them. Starting last year, every 5th grader took home a milkweed plant to grow. We have had a huge increase in Monarchs in Alameda in just one year. When people ask me where I get the caterpillars from I say, “If you plant it, they will come to you.”
I have milkweed seed pods sent to me from MN. Do I just scatter the seed at some point for them to grow? They came from a pasture and I want to have them grow in my pasture in northern CA.
Hi Linda, I would first research the specific species of milkweed you have to see see if it’s a good option for your region:
25 Milkweed Species for North America
This year I will be paying much closer attention to the cleanliness of my habitat, cleaning up the poop every day. I’m also going to be mindful of not letting the butterflies come out above my cats and their food supply, as I now know the dangers of passing diseases this way.
I can’t wait until I see my first monarch.
I hope to be able to tag those that I release this season.
What will eat tropical milkweed other than monarch caterpillars? I lost plants because of something other than caterpillars eating leaves and stems. I couldn’t find evidence of another insect in the leaf litter or plants (only a small amount on the ground) but looked closely anyway. The affected plants were confined to only some areas. Monarch caterpillars were in the tropicals in other areas with typical monarch damage. I live in north Louisiana.
hi Chester, I’ve heard reports from some regions that mice/rats/squirrels will eat milkweed….I know further north we’ve had rabbit and deer mow down ours.
I am getting an early start this year, I am building a small greenhouse to grow the milkweed to feed my caterpillars, protected. I plan on getting the eggs from the outdoor plants and then only feeding the protected greenhouse plants to the caterpillars in my cages indoors. I hope this will avoid some of the losses I had last year as the season got later, it seems I lost more caterpillars.
Great idea. I may try that, too!
I do my best up north here to educate people about milkweed in general. It doesn’t help that the word “weed” strikes fear in gardeners. Also there’s the native vs non native milkweed issue. I advise anyone who doesn’t want to grow tropical milkweed up here in their garden, to grow it as a potted patio plant. It really does well in containers and has the advantage of being easily accessible to check for eggs, cats, and to harvest leaves. I’ve harvested a lot of eggs on my container plants. You can also move it in case of an early frost in Fall.
I started my first season last summer. I have planned a monarch weigh station for the coming season. I raised and tagged over 100 Monarch last summer. It is my intention to challenge myself to raise 200 this season. I am planting mostly common milkweed, with a few different plants. I am also growing many milkweed plants, and will give them out to anyone that will accept one. Its the dedication, and the involvement. I lay in bed a night before I sleep thinking about the spring, and arrival of Papillion..
Butterfly populations are much lower than they were 20 to 30 years ago and I doubt they will ever return to what they were. It’s not chemical pesticides that caused this situation. I believe it’s a direct result of the releasing of parasitic wasps into the environment in agriculture. Even cabbage whites which have hostplants all over the place are not as common as they used to be.
Thirty years ago when I would look at the fresh new growth tips of a hostplant, I would often find eggs. These days when I look at the new growth I find minute wasps walking over the tips as though they are searching for something. Gee, I wonder what they’re looking for?
I plan to bleach my Monarch eggs this coming season. This is something I have never tried before but with the bad luck I had this last year with some kind of black death I feel I must. I have raised Monarchs for 10+ years and never did I have this problem before and now I am terrified it will happen again. I lost close to a hundred caterpillar.s and many adult Monarchs and even some Black Swallowtails. It seemed no matter how careful I was to disinfect everything and not mix the new with the old nothing worked. I have to admit I am scared to death to try this so if anyone else has had good luck with it let me know
I also lost many butterflies to O E
They were deformed or were to weak to come out of their chrysalis
I collected eggs and bleached them
Kept them in cages and had my fingers crossed
All emerged perfect
Hi, Shirley. I’m a huge advocate for bleaching monarch eggs and also bleaching all the milkweed they consume. Living in California we have a lot of OE. And bleaching really helps. That being said bleaching only has the capability of killing pathogens on the outside of an egg. If the pathogen is on the inside of your egg bleach won’t help you. There are many pathogens that are on the inside of an egg. I still advocate bleaching because many butterfly diseases are spread by touch. Waystation #5375 releases 1,000 monarch butterflies a year. Tony, I love the work you are doing to help butterflies. Your advice is spot on. Your writing is excellent. Happy Butterflying everyone from California Butterfly Lady. God Bless O:)
We have been inundated with Monarch butterflies and their progeny here in the Florida Keys.
I’ve noticed cats in the past on my Currasavica but they rarely made it to the chrysalis form due to predatory wasps.
One of the few benefits of Hurricane Irma seems to be the destruction of those wasps as we had close to 6 feet of seawater across our island and as a result we are having a fantastic winter butterfly season.
I currently have cats on almost ALL of my Milkweed plants (around 100 plants).
My Giant Milkweed is 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide and has produced around 100 butterflies in December and early January alone.
I hope my Milkweed supply can keep up!!
Hi Jeff, interesting news report post-Irma…thank you for sharing! Over the past seasons, it seems like many Floridians report less wasp activity during the winter months…but maybe they typically head further south to the keys?? That’s great to hear there’s so much caterpillar activity in your region. Good luck with your giant milkweed supply and enjoy those winter butterflies!
I kept all my Milkweed pods that didn’t quite open and plucked all the seeds off. I understand I have to keep the seeds in the fridge for awhile to winterize them or they won’t grow as well. Had a great 2017 and planted more Butterfly bushes and meadow flowers for 2018. Thank you for your informative newsletter. Hans
Thanks for the info Tony, I am feeding my last 3 cats of the 2017 season. It was very unusual in that 50 of them came after December 1st, when the Monarchs should have been in diapause. I had started cutting back my tropical milkweed but cats were showing up in the new buds. So did the tropical milkweed cause the Monarchs to mate or had they already mated weren’t in diapause and found a place to lay some more eggs. I am with you on rolling my eyes about the Natives. I have native showy milkweed and native narrow leaf milkweed. I found 2 caterpillars on it the whole season. If I didn’t have tropical milkweed, I probably would have raised 10 Monarch butterflies instead of 250. So far only one chrysalis did not emerge that may have had OE. I wash all of my milkweed that I feed my caterpillars, so if the caterpillar had OE it got it from eating its egg or eating its first few leaves before I brought it in. Thank you for providing a balanced approach to raising Monarchs. There is no one approach, especially for a country the size of the United States. Different regions have different issues, but as long as the goal is raising healthy butterflies, I say use as many methods and tools that work to Raise the Migration. I think I did my little part this year and loved every minute of it. Woodland CA
I have had very good success with washing the eggs in a bleach solution. I heard about it on youtube and twitter from Rich Lund…a science teacher in Michigan. He has a video on exactly how to do this…it cleans OE spores from the egg!
Dawn, I live in Fullerton California. With our warm temperatures, I still have caterpillars in January. Our waystation #5375 grow many different varieties of milkweed. We have a massive amount of narrow leaf, but I always find the majority of eggs on our tropical milkweed. And the eggs are much easier to spot on the tropical versus the narrow-leaf. We bring all our eggs inside to hatch. Once the eggs have hatched, I feed them whichever milkweed I choose from our garden. That way I don’t run out of milkweed. Since the majority of monarch eggs are found on our tropical milkweed. Happy Butterflying. God Bless, California Butterfly Lady
I live in Florida and have been raising Monarchs for several years. Just in the past few weeks, I have had several emerge from the chrysalis and never properly open their wings. The remain uninflated and the butterflies are unable to fly…
Hi Lynellen, please check out the link to OE parasites on this page:
Monarch Diseases and Caterpillar Killers
Here’s an important note on which types of milkweed to plant.
According to this Monarch website: http://www.monarch-butterfly.com/saving-monarchs.html you will be doing more harm than good to plant milkweed that is not NATIVE to your area…
One of the main reasons for the decrease in Monarch’s population is the termination of the native milkweed plants. Hence, plant as many milkweeds as possible to give them an original habitat for laying eggs. But care should be taken to plant native milkweeds, because the COMMONLY FOUND TROPICAL MILKWEEDS CAN CAUSE MORE DAMAGE TO THESE CREATURES THAN OFFER HELP. THE TROPICAL PLANTS NEVER DIE, THEREBY PROVIDING A HABITAT EVEN DURING THE WINTER SEASON. WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES GET A NON-NATIVE MILKWEED IN THEIR OWN HABITAT EVEN IN THE WINTER THEY DO NOT BOTHER TO MIGRATE AWAY TO A NEW HABITAT. THIS CAUSED A DECLINE IN THE NATURAL PROCESS OF MIGRATION. Other than that, the yearlong growing milkweeds are dangerous, because a type of PARASITE grows on them. When the caterpillars feed on them, they also consume the parasites on the leaves that lead to infection. When it enters into the pupa stage, its body is filled with infected spores, and ultimately it becomes weak and fragile compared to their healthy counterparts. Even if you wish to cultivate tropical milkweeds, regularly prune it to cultivate fresh leaves. You can also purchase seeds of native milkweeds from online sites.
Thanks to all of you who are doing your best to help our pollinators!
Here is the BEST POLLINATOR INFO website of any that I’ve http://www.xerces.org
– See more at: http://www.monarch-butterfly.com/saving-monarchs.html#sthash.C7sKnTzw.dpuf
Shelley, last winter there were nearly 200 million monarchs overwintering in Mexico, despite the availability of milkweed along their migration route. If you think this is one of the issues decimating the monarch population, please take some time to learn about the real issues affecting them including loss of habitat and pesticide use.
Milkweed not dying back is only an issue in continuous growing regions, which make up a very small percentage of North America. For those regions, they can opt for native milkweed species, or cut back tropical milkweed plants to allow healthy growth to emerge:
Is Tropical Milkweed Killing Monarch Butterflies?
I live part time in Carrabelle, Fl. After talking to many residents I found that few were even slightly aware of monarchs and their habits so I wrote an article to be published in the Carrabelle Chronicle, several said they were so inspired they planted milkweed. Below is the article.
Beautiful Floating Flowers.
I saw her at the same time she saw me, she was afloat in all her finery. I realized she was acting nervous as she darted back and forth and I understood I was standing between her and something she desperately needed. The object of her affection was the monarchs life giving milkweed, genus Asclepius. I had the only milkweed she could find. She was late in her migration to Mexico where she was to overwinter. My lone milkweed, I was convinced, was the key to continuing the preservation of the monarch butterfly, genus Danaus. After I saw her attach her egg to the milkweed I knew I was to become a parent to a caterpillar once the egg hatched. I panicked and ran to the local nursery and added additional milkweed so my little fellow would have enough to eat in order to enter the next phase in its development, that of chrysalis. The metamorphosis of the egg to a monarch butterfly takes roughly a month. Passing people may have though it odd to see me sitting in my yard staring at a plant but I was enthralled with the development of my study.
The Zebra Longwing butterfly is the state insect of Florida, however, they are not dependent for one and only one plant for their survival. Without milkweed there are no monarchs. Because, if you will, humans need to rid themselves of anything with weed in the name; milkweed has gotten a bad rap and has been successfully depleted to the detriment of the monarch. The monarch caterpillars can eat nothing but milkweed. Saint Marks wildlife refuge has an annual monarch butterfly festival as the monarchs migrate through northern Florida in route to Mexico for the winter season, the monarchs utilize this route in part due to genetic memory and impart landscape, as hypothesized. The monarch amazing life experiences four to five generations in the migration process with each generation remembering the migration route. We in Carrabelle are also on the migratory route of the monarch.
The Scientific Reports Journal has estimated that within the next 20 years the monarchs numbers will reach an all time low in numbers and they may not rebound; they are in danger of extinction. Studies suggest that the monarchs numbers have declined by 80% in the last 15 years. As a member of and observer of the many monarch butterfly associations the top request is to plant more milkweed. The monarchs are in need of human intervention and need our help as their existence depends on milkweed that we are destroying though herbicides, mowing and land development. Monarchs numbers are also declining due to insecticides. Climate change is a factor effecting their numbers.
The Most common milkweed plants commercial sold are Silky Gold which is imported from South America and a native variety know as Swamp Milkweed. I find the imported Silky Gold works best for me as my soil does not stay wet enough for the native Swamp variety, hence its name. The Silky Gold is easy to propagate, just break some off and root in water. The milkweeds are also self seeding. Cutting back on the plant also encourages growth and the plant becomes bushier. Plant some milkweed, the plants produce showy flowers with the added benefit of flying flowers, our beautiful monarch.
Here in northern-central Mexico we have many gardens with Asclepias curassavica flowering even in winter. We see plenty of healthy monarchs visiting during their trip from and to the north, but they do not stay long.
Hi Tony I am a retired teacher who is growing milkweed and pollinator plants. My plan is to go around to schools and help start Butterfly(Pollinator) gardens. I am speaking next week at the state science convention (HASTI) and would like permission to use your two photos showing the difference in male and female monarchs.
Hi John, feel free to use any photos from the site for educational purposes.
Good luck with your presentation and mission, Tony
In 2015 I changed my garden over to try to give a little help to the Monarchs and the bee population. I figured, I have same space why not put a few plants in and forget about them. Stepped it up last year to really focus on more nectar plants for the Monarchs and other pollinators. I’ve used this website often and Tony, you’ve given me great help both indirectly through the info on this site and directly but answering my questions, and I thank you.
Last fall I was lucky enough to rear 2 Monarchs in a screened-in “sanctuary” I quickly built for the caterpillars I found in late September. I even got to see and video one of them making a chrysalis which was very cool and admittedly a little freaky to see. Missed them emerging but it really was exciting to open the screen to let them fly off.
So, if anyone is thinking about doing a little something for the Monarchs I’d say give it a try. Doesn’t take much and who knows, it might capture your interest even more as it did mine. I went from planting a few random Milkweeds for the heck of it to actually building a “house” just to help out a couple of butterflies and had a great time with it!
Hi Dave, congrats on starting your butterfly garden to support pollinators. I hope you will have even more success (and fun!) this season…
Thank you for your amazing words. I “stumbled” upon the world of raising monarchs with one magical plant that appeared in my garden (milkweed).
I started in about August 2017 and have since released over 300 butterflies. I live in SoCal and am able to continue to release butterflies through our ‘winter.’
I do have several concerns. I have begun to prepare my garden with a variety of native mw, tropical mw & nectar flowers. Since I live in the hills, most of the common flowers that are mentioned on websites are not native. I went ahead and planted and lo and behold…something is eating all my flowers! My milkweed is being shredded & roots dug out of the dirt. We found rat droppings & suspect this might be the issue. Yikes! What is your advice on keeping rodents out of my yard in the most humane way possible? It/they are mowing through my milkweed at warp speed! ??
(Unless you suspect it is something else…this only happens at night. It climbed up to our balcony as well & munches through our potted plants! Argh!)
Sorry to hear about your rodent issue Emily! You could try diversifying your milkweed species to see if there is a species they leave alone? I would reach out to others in your region to see what rodent-control methods are working for them. Check out this page:
Western Monarch Resources
Hi Tony, one of my cats yellow color is slightly different than most and is missing one feeler. Is this going to be a problem for him. He in his last stage. And I am worried because the two feelers fuse together upon them leaving chrysalis , correct ?
Hi Melanie, the caterpillar filaments are shed when the caterpillar forms its chrysalis, and not part of the adult butterfly:
Caterpillar Filaments Video
The biggest lesson 2016 taught me was to look beyond my yard for cats & eggs if I want to make the most of monarch raising. I have a friend and his neighbor interested in growing milkweed and most of the butterflies I raised came from them (out in the country) vs me in town. I also found some milkweed growing in field on public land that I’ll be searching as well.
I agree. I was going to comment that I’ll be doing all these things on Tony’s list, but mainly, as soon as I see on the Learner.org site that any sightings were as far north as I am, I will be checking milkweed around places like my library, church and friends’ yards where I found more last May and June before any showed up in my yard. In fact, I’m willing to bet that most of the eggs I found in my yard last summer were from babies I raised and released — in other words, my “grandchildren”. I rarely see adults in my yard unless they’re the ones I released. And if I do see any, it’s later in the season. Last year I released 177 instead of 8 the year before. And I believe it was because I looked elsewhere for eggs. Can’t wait for this coming season!
What’s a good way to plant common milkweed in a home butterfly garden while preventing it from taking over? Would purple milkweed be a good alternative?
Hi Chris, I try to keep our common milkweed separate from the rest of the garden. Yes, purple milkweed is not invasive, but it’s also more difficult to establish. Here’s more info:
Is it normal to have monarch caterpillars in charleston Sc in january
Hi Paula, I’ve heard there are small overwintering populations in the coastal regions, but don’t know much about them. Whether they are active (mating) would depend on weather patterns.
I live in Ontario Canada. I have a few black and giant swallowtail chrysalis’ . They are outside over wintering but the weather has suddenly warmed up to 8-13 degrees Celsius
It is supposed to be like this for a week. Being only February I am concerned that they will eclose. Do you know how many consecutive days of warm weather will encourage them to emerge. I can’t find any info.
Hi Monica, it should still be getting cool enough at night, that early eclosure should (hopefully) not be an issue. Unfortunately, swallowtails can be very unpredictable emerging from their chrysalides.
Coastal areas (look up gardening zone, if you’re 9a/b you might be subject to this) can host them year-round during mild weather. It’s also possible these are part of the Florida population instead of the migratory Eastern population. The past two winters have been overall more mild than normal in the Southeast due to La Nina so it is possible Florida monarchs made it up there.
Source: I live in Northern Florida and I have 5 monarchs right now. I take them inside when it’s below freezing or if it’s cold+rainy but I otherwise leave them outside.
I have a large pot out near my driveway that has a volunteer common milkweed that comes back every spring. I just leave it in the pot. I think if you had some large containers you might be able to keep the common milkweed from spreading, especially if the containers are on something other than soil where the roots might grow through the holes. But if I had a choice where to plant mine, it would be in a back corner with walking space to check for eggs, and maybe plant some zinnias in front of them so there’s something pretty to look at when the milkweeds start to go dormant. I think that if all I had for the monarchs was milkweed and zinnias, they’d be happy.
(I didn’t have a choice where my common milkweed was planted. I guess the wind blew it in and it just showed up 2011 in my strawberry, asperagus and tomato beds — right next to my driveway. At least it’s relatively easy to search for eggs, even if I’m not happy with the look.)
Hi Tony and a very good 2017 to you as well!
I live in the north end of the Willamette Valley (45 miles SE of Portland), Oregon, zone 7b-8, elevation 975′. Hardy bananas and palms only survive if grown against a wall with southern exposure, however, a country neighbor just 75′ lower can grow hardy bananas like dandelions (she must be in what is referred to locally as the “banana belt”). Starting in early September 2016, I began to convert a quarter acre of hay field into a pollinator/nectar garden for Swallowtails, etc. Having read your thoughtful comments about the judicious use of both native and non native plant material in the effort to repatriate threatened or endangered species, I completely agree with you. As you mentioned, success is measured in the details: don’t plant non-native invasive species that compete with native plants used for forage/shelter/reproduction, know your plant environment very well ( there are microclimates within zones that are plant unique), even though insects have evolved for millions of years along side native plant material, that does not make non-native plants exclusive to the insects’ success; it actually increases their survival by broadening habitat and forage material. 38 years of gardening observation have verified this. Showy milkweed is native to the county I live in but, supposedly, not native to the Portland area, where certain government employed biologists strongly discourage its sowing because of its non native status. I found a good source for Showy Milkweed and sowed another 1/8 acre, along other Oregon native milkweeds, last Nov. before the first hard frost. The area was tilled, thinly sown, then lightly raked as transplanting seedlings in this case is not practicable. There will be competition from “weeds” but, hopefully, the milkweed will emerge prior to the initial early spring onslaught.
Finally, a much sought-after question. Do you know how long systemic pesticides actually stay in a perennial, even when that plant is pruned to the ground in Fall and the soil in the container surrounding the rootball has been removed? How long do systemics stay in potting soil? I don’t use any herbicides or pesticides, however, many garden centers don’t know what their suppliers use or don’t use. If they can’t tell me I don’t buy. But, it’s always a question.
You have a fabulous informational site. Much regard,
Hi Verena, it sounds like you have big plans for 2017 and I wish you success with your pollinator field. Unfortunately, I can’t give you the answers you seek about systemic pesticides. How long they remain active depends on several factors including what was applied, when it was applied, and possible regional factors like rainfall. My best advice is to avoid treated plants whenever possible…there are plenty of pesticide-free options available. If not locally, search online:
Buying Milkweed Online
I have 25 small to medium cats now . Still have 5 monarch chrysalis . My milkweed is still blooming due to warm temperatures.
I’ve raised and released over 300 monarchs this season .
If it never freezes here, this may continue till spring . It is the latest in the year that I have raised monarchs.
I have been rearing them since 2013.
I would like to know where you live, Susan!
We just took a trip from NJ to Northern/Central California Coast and had the privilege of seeing at least 10 overwintering sites with a total estimated count of 50,000 Monarchs. The counts in each of these sites is down from the year before…way down from 20 years ago when counting started. Still it was an awesome site to see! Now hearing that our Eastern Migratory count is up by that much just makes me so happy and grateful to be a part of it.
So excited to read about your trip.. One I hope to take some day.. or even Mexico.
I’m a Jersey girl living the Lehigh Valley of eastern PA. We raised and released over 200 in 2016 (our most ever) from our small suburban garden. I’m looking to get a regional group of fellow monarch raisers together this spring to help each other and raise awareness. I’ll probably launch a FB page this spring.
I live in southern California, and have planted many milkweeds plus Butterfly plants of other kinds. We have roses and fruit trees, vegetables and herbs, and lots of clover. It’s December 31, 2016 and we still see lots of Monarchs
flying from one plant to another. Each time I go outdoors, a Monarch seems to be soaring near me as if to say “thanks for the good food”. Is it normal for them to stay here year round? I read that they migrate to Mexico. I will keep on sharing the new seedlings of milkweed with neighbors and friends.
Hi Gail, the monarchs have a year-round population in warm regions like southern California, and central/south Florida. If monarchs would migrate in your region, it would be to the California coast. There are several areas in California where they overwinter. (Pismo beach)
Hi tony. Happy new year!! Thi s is my first time raising monarchs and trying swallowtails as well. I just started this fall. So far I have released 15. I have now 2 cats and five chrysalis. I live in south Florida Can you mix tropical yellow and red together My milkweed had many pods and I let the seeds go where they may lol. Was that a mistake. How many plants should I have. Also do I have to move the chrysalis from the cage where I have a milkweed plant that has two cats on it. Thank you
Hi Marissa, you can definitely grow different cultivars of tropical milkweed together. From what I hear, A. curassavica seeds prolifically in warm regions so if you want to cut down on some of the seeding I would cut off some seed pods prematurely….
As for separating caterpillars/chrysalides it’s usually not necessary. The caterpillars will bother chrysalides IF 1) the cage is overcrowded 2) the milkweed is wilting/gone and they’re wandering for a new food source.
good luck with your milkweed and monarchs!
I am just starting this monarch butterfly experience with lantana and three types of milkweed–a Showy Milkweed plant, scarlet milkweed seeds I planted after keeping them in a damp cool environment for 30 days, and a number of milkweed plants that “volunteer” in my South Florida neighborhood. Another enthusiast in my area has had great luck already with butterflies, catapillars and chrysalis but I have not seen the first butterfly. The native butterfly milkweed was pretty well eaten when I returned to my house in late fall. Have I missed the season?
Hi Susan, if you aren’t seeing butterflies it’s a great time to work on your garden adding seeds/plants that can’t be planted in the Florida summer heat. As your garden grows, it should attract more monarchs…good luck!
My small garden is in Plano TX. This last season (2015) there were many, many monarchs visiting and laying eggs on the dozens of tropical & green milkweed I had. Unfortunately, wasps patroled the garden and devoured eggs and instars regularly.
But the weirdest thing occurred later in the season, when every tropical milkweed began to be stripped of every leaf from ground to crown. I was at a loss as monarchs were still visiting, but nothing was surviving the leaves being eatened. Then read on Monarch Watch a comment about rats eating milkweed. This may be “Bingo” as I did have family of field rats (for the bobcats that wander thru now & again). So have live trapped the family and relocated closer to creek where bobcats roam.
This year am going to raise monarchs in enclosures to thwart wasps & any new predators. The plan is to keep the live traps out for any rats passing thru as well. 😀
Hi John, I saw a night-vision video of a rat mowing down tropical milkweed a couple seasons ago. There seems to be a ever-growing list of milkweed munchers popping up in our butterfly gardens. Glad you were able to relocate the rats…
good luck raising and trapping in 2016!
I’m starting my Milkweeds Seeds in Pots and Milk Jugs this winter,also potting up 64 small pots for our Garden Club plant sale this spring .
Starting seven different kinds of Milkweed .
Wish me luck !
For seed starting, winter sowing has become my favorite way to start perennial seeds because it has worked so well…good luck Judy!
Our weather has been very warm in SC through December. At the end of December, I was gathering tropical milkweed seeds from plants still blooming and to my surprise found a dozen grown caterpillars I had not noticed earlier. Some managed to change into chrysalides before the current cold hit SC, but I fear they will never hatch. I live in Georgetown County about 25 miles inland from the coast.
Hi Sybil, I’m not sure what will happen if they are left outside…it depends on your weather patterns. Are there any monarchs overwintering on the SC coast? I know there have been reports of this in past winters. Perhaps you could try bringing your adult butterflies to the coast if they eclose…good luck and keep us posted!
Happy New Year to everyone! This year, we will continue with the common & tropical milkweed we have in our flower beds as well as the butterfly bushes. I am going to pot up the rooted tropical milkweed stems – that are already blooming – tomorrow. Also will put the common milkweed seeds out this week; using your method- in the gallon plastic jugs for cold stratification. Also am going to purchase several other varieties of milkweed for diversification & plant. Which ones need cold stratification?
Thanks so much for all that you do Tony for the Monarchs & thanks also to everyone else! Let’s keep up the good work!
it’s probably easier to tell you which varieties don’t need stratification: tropical mw, Calotropis spp., Gomphocarpus spp., Cynanchum laeve, Tweedia. I think that about covers it. If you have questions about a specific variety, click on individual milkweed pages for more info:
Milkweed Resources Page
Happy New Year!
Thanks for the encouraging report Tony! I brought smaller plants inside in the fall which are all doing great. My cuttings are struggling, but it’s my first attempt in that arena. I suppose it’s time to plant some milkweed seedlings indoors (?). I’m in New Jersey.
Hi Lauri, if your tropical milkweed cuttings are struggling you could try putting a headed seedling mat under them to speed up root growth. If you’re starting perennial milkweed seeds, you might be interested in winter sowing, which works well in regions with cold winters:
Winter Sowing Milkweed
Otherwise, if you start annual varieties indoors, there’s no need to start seeds until March, since the butterflies seem to prefer the natives earlier in the season when they have fresh leaves. Hope this helps…
I’m in the Lehigh Valley in eastern PA.. We successfully released about 200 in 2016. Let me know if I can be of any help. I even want to start a regional support group this spring for our region, share info and spread the word…
We started last year brought 4 caterpillers and common milkweed back with us from our visit to Wisconsin to see my parents. Bought some swamp milkweed at a local greenhouse. We brought in 28 catipillers and released 25 monarchs ( 13 boys and 12 girls ) lost 3 catapillers. Hope to make a bigger garden this year and reduce lose. Bought a large greenhouse on clearance so I can get an early start Indiana has some not so nice springs.
What do you think of giant milkweed?
We have released 9 monarchs in the last week and the caterpillars eat our milkweed as fast as we can grow it and we have a lot of it.
Hi Ray, we don’t grow that variety up north but have heard from many in warm regions say that it’s a great monarch host plant. If it’s working well for you, keep using it! Here’s some basic info on giant milkweed:
Calotropis Gigantea Milkweed Page
I noticed last summer that the wild milkweed on my property was dying before going to seed. I didn’t see one Monarch caterpillar on it. I had tropical milkweed in my garden and have bought three other kinds (seeds) as well as collecting wild seeds from near the local fairgrounds for this summer, some of which I have just put into flats. I did read somewhere that there is something with tropical milkweed other than that it keep the butterflies around too long. It was a disease or something? Anyone heard of this?
Hi Rachel, check out this post for more info about tropical milkweed:
Is tropical milkweed killing monarch butterflies?
I am really excited about starting a monarch butterfly garden…I live in New PA…zone 5b…what are my 3 or 4 best varieties of milkweed ?
Hi Thomas, here’s a good trio to get you started (and attract monarchs over the entire season). all 3 varieties are both host plants for caterpillars and nectar plants for butterflies:
What is your take on the Ophryocystis elektroscirrha propagation in tropical milkweeds grown in regions that do not have a freezing winter? We live in Southern California. Staff Ph.D.’s at the LANHM recommend cutting them back to 2 inch stubs in late October. I will take out all of my remaining tropical milkweeds because none of our SoCal Monarchs participate in the Mexico/Canada migration. If the “winter” (temperatures below 50 degrees) the O.e. protozoans produce horribly deformed Monarchs. They live for a few hours, maybe a day, can’t fly more than a few feet.
If the “winter” is very cold (below 40 degrees) our Monarchs will leave the coastal region for warmer conditions inland. We have desert milkweeds in California, Asclepias californica, that require dry conditions.
Your Minnesota/Mexico Monarch criteria does not work everywhere.
Hi Alan, I’m aware of the OE issues in continuous growing regions like Southern California and Central/South Florida, and have published an article with ideas to produce healthier monarchs in these regions:
Is Tropical Milkweed Killing Monarch Butterflies
Because of my location, I focus more on the eastern monarch population, but I do send some info about western monarchs and also have a page that lists resources located in your region:
Western Monarch Resources
I’m in the Lehigh Valley, not sure where in PA you are. I’ll be more than happy to help you get a good supply of milkweed started and help with pollinator plants. I’m hoping to start a regional support group this spring for us Monarch ‘addicts’
Last year was my first year raising caterpillars to butterflies and I released 50. It was so exciting. This year I’m going to try for 100. I found a natural milkweed patch but am going to try growing some for my garden from seed. Tried unsuccessfully once before from purchased seeds; now I have my own seeds from the patch. Will try again.
sounds like a great goal Penelope! The great thing about starting your own seeds is you know they will be fresh. Good luck and keep us posted…
I live just a couple of miles from the monarch grove in Pismo Beach, Ca.
The monarchs winter over here from November to February.
I’m starting a new container Garden and would like to grow flowers to help
monarchs and humming birds. What do you suggest?
hummingbirds and monarchs definitely have similar tastes in nectar flowers. Check out this post…your best options for potting are probably swamp milkweed and tropical milkweed. you can also pot the verbena in the post. It gets tall but doesn’t need to be staked.
Plants for Monarchs and Hummingbirds
A few years ago I grew a few purple coneflowers from seed. I’ve enjoyed watching the butterflies and bees visit the blooms and later the goldfinches that come for the seed. My daughter used a few seedheads as magic wands and I wound up with so many baby plants last year that I traded a few for some Common Milkweed plants. I planted them at the wood’s edge where they can get as invasive as they like. 🙂 My goal for 2015 is to grow some swamp milkweed and butterfly weed from seed. Our front yard tends to be very damp so I think the swamp milkweed might make for an interesting feature.
Hi Erica, that’s fantastic that you have an area where you can let the common grow wild! Swamp milkweed is a popular host and nectar plant for monarchs so that should be a great addition to your garden. Good luck!
Hi Brian, I have always done “dry”cold stratification and never had any issues. I am trying an experiment this year with a few of the natives. I’m going to cold stratify for a month, and then soak them in warm water 24 hours before planting. I am guessing this will increase germination rate and speed since moisture signals the seed to awaken…I will report on this in spring.
In 2015, we are going to add three new milkweeds to our garden. The first is balloon or goose milkweed. I hear it grows quickly and stays viable until frost. The next is prairie milkweed because it is shorter and less aggressive than common, and hopefully can place nice with our other plants.
The third new milkweed that we are going to grow is common. I have read the warnings so this one will not be put into the garden, but will be given its own small little bed and will be planted into containers. How can I not give the “workhorse” of milkweeds a try?
However, I do have a question for you on common milkweed seeds. Over Christmas, I grabbed some seeds off of my sisters plant. I have read that the seeds need cold stratification to germinate. However, I thought that I read that you just place your seeds in the refrigerator without any moisture? Is that true?
Does that work for swamp milkweed seeds too, or do they need moisture to germinate?
Great motivation to get the plan together while the snowy months are here in Ohio. I certainly agree with using multiple milkweed species and annuals. The annuals/non natives tend to bloom all summer until a hard frost. I have swamp and butterfly milkweed and will plant tropical from both seed I saved and cuttings. Is there an additional type you’d recommend? Whorled perhaps? Which of the compact space saving butterfly bushes would you recommend?
Hi Chris, you’re missing the workhorse! Common milkweed (A. syriaca) is a great garden plant IF you segregate from other garden plants. Most years, I also cut off all the seed pods to stop seeding. This is where we get the most eggs every year…although swamp was a close second last season. Prairie milkweed (A. sulivantii)is similar to common, but shorter, with less vigorous growth. Whorled milkweed has needle shaped leaves…not sure how many hungry monarchs it would sustain! Haven’t personally grown sullivantii, but hear it’s a good host plant…adding a few plants this season.
I absolutely love butterflies. I feel like they are God’s reminders that he is with us.
I’ve been growing milkweed plants for about a decade – I even had a special area in our new patio left open where the milkweed is – it’s right outside a window. I planted black-eyed Susans a couple years ago to fill in & help the area look better when the milk weed started to die back in the fall. This past summer, I had no milkweed! I can only guess the “susans” killed it! So I cleaned the “susans” out of the patch & planted more. A few grew, but didn’t get big enough to bloom, as it was getting late in the season. I’m hoping the spring of 2015 will bring the milkweed plants back! I had a few stray plants in the borders in the backyard. I’m leaving them too. I didn’t realize that milkweed could be pushed out by other common & pretty flowers!
wow Janie, I’ve never heard of black eyed susans taking out milkweed before. I’m curious which species you were growing? Some varieties of milkweed (like swamp and common) also grow well in pots if you’re looking for new places to put plants. Good luck with your returning milkweed…