Butterflies! Even a Monarch!

Butterflies! Even a Monarch!

by Barbara Walvoord

Monarch butterly on swamp milkeweed in the townhome garden of Barbara Walvoord and Sharon Grace, July 14, 2014.
Monarch butterly on swamp milkweed in the townhome garden of Barbara Walvoord and Sharon Grace, July 14, 2014.

Our Lathrop fields are full of butterflies!

Here is how you can easily see them:

  • East campus: Walk down to the vegetable garden and follow the path along the tall grasses. OR walk down the wide mowed woods path to the meadow and follow the mowed path or just stand on the edge where you can see into the grasses.
  • North campus: I have not looked for butterflies there, but walk to your open areas with tall grasses and/or flowers.

Monarch butterflies, once numerous, are in disastrous decline. “I’ve only seen one monarch this year,” said Harvey Allen, prominent local naturalist who leads butterfly walks, and who visited our campus July 18.

One major reason for the decline is the disappearance of milkweed, due to use of herbicides and to land development. Monarchs may sip nectar from many flowers, but they lay their eggs only on milkweed plants, and the larvae can eat only milkweed.

Lathrop can help, because our meadows have milkweed. Some residents have tried to nurture the native milkweed that appears in their townhome gardens, but the plants sometimes fall over. Sharon and I planted, in our townhome front garden, a native species that has sturdier stems, so it is not falling over, but it still supports monarchs. It’s swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). We purchased it at Project Native in Housatonic.

On July 14, we saw a monarch butterfly on our swamp milkweed!

Here is that butterfly’s history, taken from a July 16 Washington Post article:

[Monarchs from the eastern coast]winter on a dozen forested mountain tops in central Mexico about two miles above sea level….From Mexico, as spring arrives, they head northward in a journey of generations. Members of the early generations have short life spans and don’t get all the way north. Each generation lays eggs and dies shortly thereafter, passing the mission onward to their progeny as they continue heading northward and then breed in the summer. The final generation-the fourth or fifth-is a super-generation, capable of living for nine months and flying the entire distance of up to 2,000 miles in the fall, back to the warmth of that exact spot in Mexico. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/16/this-animation-of-the-migration-of-the-monarch-butterfly-was-the-work-of-thousands-of-citizen-scientists/). Learn more at monarchwatch.org.


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