We’ve been waiting patiently for the monarch butterflies to arrive this year. Warm weather encouraged the over-wintering monarchs to fly to Texas earlier than normal. Their offspring were born and flew north (earlier than normal) but never made it further than the southern border of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Then, cold, nasty, wet weather hit the Midwest and stopped the butterflies. Those of us growing milkweed with no butterflies were worried that our efforts would be for naught.
I’m happy to say that a monarch butterfly was spotted today . . . finally! (My neighbor and I have an agreement to contact each other immediately when either one of us spots the first monarch. Well, Mikel beat me to it this year!) Today, May 22, 2017, at 3:23 p.m., she called to announce our first monarch fluttering through the gardens. (Unfortunately, I never saw it.) About 30 minutes later, she excitedly revealed having found six eggs on her milkweed! That set me to looking in my own garden, and I found 15 eggs with little effort. (I even found an egg on my rose milkweed . . . uncommon in the early weeks.)
This means we’re up and running! The monarch butterfly season in central Wisconsin and Minnesota has officially started!
This also means that we’ll have flyers (butterflies) before July 4th. As a general rule, the fireworks are finished before the first butterflies emerge. Usually, I don’t see a monarch, or eggs, until June 10-15. We are three weeks ahead of schedule!
We’ll have to take good care of our milkweed supplies by cutting back and encouraging multiple branching, minimizing milkweed pests, and allowing volunteer seedlings to remain in places where you might otherwise pull them. I have two common milkweed seedlings in my front lawn . . . I’ll mow around them for now until I decide to pull them for my eaters (caterpillars).
Let’s make this an incredible year for our beautiful monarch butterflies. Find some healthy (pesticide-free) milkweed plants. Start looking for eggs now! (Remember, the eggs are easier to find on the plants than actual caterpillars.) Rescue the eggs by breaking off the individual leaves and keeping them safe in a clean, covered container. In 3-5 days, the larvae will emerge. They won’t eat much in the beginning. Just be ready for when they do.
I’ll upload some instructions for some easy habitats when the caterpillars are a few days old. Check back often for additional information to make your monarch adventure a huge success! Feel free to send me questions, too. I’ll do my best to answer them.