Monarch Butterflies – Beauty on the Wing!
A Monarch Butterfly is a spectacular frequent visitor to the gardens and conservation areas of Newton. It is hard to miss this large butterfly with its striking wing pattern and coloration. The bright orange and black markings are a warning to predators that this insect is poisonous. The larvae feed on milkweed plants, the toxic chemicals of which are passed on to the adult butterfly. In fact, this warning coloration is so effective that several other insects mimic it.
There are four stages in the life cycle of the monarch butterfly and it goes through four generations in one year. Over-wintering adults mate before spring migration northward and they lay eggs on milkweed plants. Caterpillars are brightly striped yellow, black and white. They feed on milkweed leaves for two weeks before pupation. A mature butterfly will emerge from the pupa after about two weeks and will live as an adult for two to eight weeks, during which time it feeds on flower nectar, mates and lays more eggs.
The adult of the fourth generation of the year can survive up to nine months. It is this butterfly that makes the lengthy migration south to over-winter in Mexico. Unfortunately, illegal deforestation in the area where monarchs over-winter has led to a decline in their number. Here in the Northeast is another threat: The invasive black swallow-wort plant produces stimuli similar to milkweed, and larvae hatched from eggs laid on this plant are poisoned.
Monarch Butterflies now considered endangered!
Monarch Email List – Newton has a growing number of monarch and butterfly enthusiasts as well as folks who are planting pollinator gardens which include milkweed to support the monarch population. If you are interested in getting on our limited Monarch email list, please email Ted Kuklinski at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “monarch”. We send out an occasional email with info on monarchs, milkweed, and related events.
In October, 2021, Newton Conservators sponsored the first Monarch Festival to bring together folks interested in learning about monarchs and milkweed. It featured pollinator garden tours, free milkweed seeds and plants, demonstration on monarch raising techniques, tagging monarchs, and even a monarch release. Our second Monarch Festival is scheduled for Saturday, September 17, 2022 from 9-11 am at the Wellington Park Monarch Garden (Kilburn Road, West Newton). Watch for an event listing in the Newton Conservators calendar.
- Newton Conservators Almanac Entry for Monarch Butterfly
- Adventures in Monarchy – an article from Newton Conservators Newsletter on raising Monarch Butterflies in Newton
- Meet the Monarchs – Newton Conservators Webinar on Raising Monarchs
Other Monarch references
- Butterflies and Moths of North America – collecting and sharing data about Lepidoptera
- Wikipedia Entry for Monarch Butterfly
Other helpful monarch related websites include:
Meet the Monarchs – Newton Conservators Webinar on Raising Monarchs
The Life Cycle of the Monarch Butterfly – Nashua River Watershed Association
A Monarch is Born – One minute tour of monarch lifecycle
- Monarch Watch’s Propagation Guide
- Plant Milkweed
- Xerces Society
Our environment is at risk because of precipitous declines in habitat, native plants and the insects, birds, and other animals that depend on those plants. The pollinators that are an essential part of making the whole system work are in serious decline, too. The new Pollinator Toolkit from Newton Conservators and the Newton Pollinator Group contains information about the problem and some easy steps you can take to help alleviate it—while creating a fascinating and vibrant garden at the same time. When you access the Toolkit, you will find charts of pollinator plants for mostly sunny, part sun/part shade, and mostly shady gardens. There are lists for perennials, shrubs, trees, and vines. When you click on the name of each plant, a photo appears. In addition, the Toolkit lists sources for buying native plants in our area, tips for starting your garden, and information for making your environment support pollinators all year long. There also are lists of helpful books and websites. Find the Pollinator Toolkit at https://newtonconservators.org/pollinator-toolkit/
Want to Plant Milkweed? Did you know?
- You can help save the Monarchs by Planting Milkweed!
- Female Monarch Butterflies only lay eggs on Monarch Plants!
- Monarch Caterpillars only eat Milkweed Plants!
- You should plant native Milkweed types for this region of the country.
- Primary New England native milkweed species
- Common Milkweed
- Swamp Milkweed
- Butterfly Weed.
- Milkweed seeds need to endure cold over the winter!
- Planting Milkweed seeds this Fall:
- Find a spot with some sun
- Scratch the ground
- Poke a hole about a knuckle deep with a pencil or finger.
- Drop in a seed.
- Brush some dirt over it
- Watch for plants next June!
- Planting Milkweed seeds in the Spring:
- Cold treat seeds over the winter
- Put in the freezer or perhaps protected outside
- Start in a peat pot inside and keep slightly moist in a sunny spot
- Plant outside after danger of frost.
- Check out more detailed info below :
- Monarch Joint Venture (monarchjointventure.org) recommends the following:Milkweed seed can be planted directly in soil, or started indoors. You can sow milkweed seeds by scattering them on the soil surface 1/4-1/2 inch apart, and then cover them with about 1/4 inch of additional soil. Water the area frequently after planting until plants become established. Many species need to be vernalized (cold treated) before planting. Vernalized seeds can be planted in the spring after the danger of frost has passed. Non-vernalized seeds can be planted in the fall, and nature will provide the cold treatment. For further details on milkweed growing and conservation use, visit the Xerces Society’s Milkweed Practicitoner Guide, which is a complete guide to milkweeds, including biology/ecology, propagation, benefits to wildlife, and use in restoration projects.
(Note: this is a 105 page scientific treatise with everything there is to know about Milkweed!)