Susan Wallace of Midtown Herbs is this week's guest blogger. Her yard is a haven for pollinators of all types, but Monarch butterflies in particular. Here, Susan shares her observations of the beautiful orange and black butterflies that found their way into her yard on their annual migration south for the winter:
"This is just one of the monarchs seen stopping in the yard for a fuel stop, and presume to be headed to Texas and Mexico. Last week I counted 4 at one time, 3 a few days later, and single ones here and there. This fits into the norm that peak migration here in the midsouth is October. Monarchs laying eggs, and the life cycle of egg-caterpillar-chrysalis-adult peaks here in September. Few adults are seen in spring and summer, with a few spotted in August. I had several caterpillars going and growing in the net butterfly cages. Those things are eating machines, spending their days and nights growing, eating and pooping! 12 made it through to maturity and were released. 2 had succumbed (most likely) to OE, the dreaded protozoan disease. Just from casual observation, the adult monarchs will nectar on a number of different flowers. Favorites in my yard are zinnias, Mexican sunflower and tropical milkweed, though none are native to this area. I need to find native flowers they like! I did let some goldenrod grow and bloom in several spots of the yard, and never saw a butterfly on one. The caterpillars only eat milkweeds (Asclepias sp). I have some planted in ground and pots, plus a number of starts in various stages for the market. One native for this region is swamp aka rose milkweed (Asclepius incarnata). It blooms by 2nd year, is lush and pretty, blooms in July, and goes south after that. By late August -September when the adult is looking for places to lay eggs, is about over. The tropical (Asclepis curassavica) is still pretty with good foliage. Butterfly weed (Ascepius tuberosa) has striking orange blooms and can be a host plant. The blooms attractive to the various butterflies and bees, but the thin coarse leaves not a choice for egg laying."