The Monarch Butterfly: #Garden4Wildlife #PolliNATION

It’s no surprise here at GrowIt! that our community members are not only passionate about gardening but passionate about the critters that live in our gardens as well! Inspired by our member’s interests for wildlife and pollinators, we partnered with several non-profit groups, conservation organizations, and other private entities to build awareness of bee health and register one million pollinator gardens.
The Monarch Butterfly is a great example of one of our favorite pollinators. Everybody goes through changes in their lives that’s for sure, but moths and butterflies put the rest of us to shame. Monarchs rely on a select group of plants along their journey — blossoming into a beautiful butterfly isn’t easy. But they also help out plants along the way, by pollinating.

Creating a Habitat for Monarch Butterflies so they can Contribute to #PolliNATION

Across the country, Milkweed and other species of Asclepias are great food sources for Monarchs. If you want to go even further, you can find the best types of Asclepias for your specific location. There are many different options for gardeners no matter what their garden’s location is. Find out what type of Asclepias to grow here!

To see more of our member’s photos of their awesome habitats head to GrowIt! and follow the #Garden4Wildlife hashtag! Even more interested in wildlife? We also have a spotlight on one of our member’s certified wildlife habitat garden as well as other blogs about the campaign!

Monarch Butterflies and the Asclepias Plant: The Stages

As a caterpillar, the Monarch uses Asclepias as a food source. They chow down on the plants and shed their skin several times (each time getting a little cuter). Eventually, once they’ve had their fill, and have taken in enough nutrients the larva will crawl off to find a suitable place to go dormant and form a chrysalis. Though not 100% foolproof, the milkweed plant contains chemicals that are toxic to other animals, which gives the Monarch a slight edge over predators looking for a tasty treat.

Where do those caterpillars go when they’re trying to find a place to complete the metamorphosis process? Most will crawl far away from the milkweed plant and find a nice tree limb, or overhang to grasp onto; something sturdy that can offer a little shelter while they will be vulnerable. Some daredevils risk it all and form their chrysalis attached to the milkweed plant… which may or may not be in the process of being devoured by other caterpillars. That’s why it’s important to have trees, shrubs, and similar places in your garden habitat!

In about 10 days the chrysalis will appear to “hatch”, and a beautiful Monarch butterfly will emerge! If you slept for 10 days, but essentially spent the whole time you were asleep working out, you can imagine you’d be a little hungry when you wake up. Butterflies feel the same way. That’s why it’s important to plant pollinator-friendly plants around the Asclepias in your garden. Contrary to popular belief, adult Monarch’s don’t eat the milkweed. They eat nectar and are looking for flowers that can provide them with the juicy punch to the proboscis that they need.

After they’ve slurped down some flower juice and had a chance to meet up with their butterfly buddies and pollinate some veggies, the Monarchs head back to the Asclepias plant to lay their eggs and complete their life cycle, securing the next generation of orange and black beauties.

If you’re interested in the Garden for Wildlife initiative, you can visit the National Wildlife Foundation’s page for more information here!

Be sure to follow the National Wildlife Foundation on GrowIt! If you have little critters in your own garden, join us in using these hashtags: #Garden4Wildlife and #PolliNATION.