Milkweed and the Monarch Butterfly

Milkweed and the Monarch Butterfly

This past week, the team began the Milkweed project, whereby Milkweed will be planted in various locations at the Ashram to help and support the Monarch Butterfly. This project will take place over several Saturdays into February. It will continue this Saturday, February 3rd, 2024, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Meet at the Peach Cottage by 2:15 p.m.

What is Milkweed? Common milkweed is a member of the Asclepiadaceae (milkweed) family. It is one of about 115 species that occur in the Americas. Milkweeds are one of the most important plants for the Monarch Butterfly. One of the most important ways to support them is planting native milkweed. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed plants and the caterpillars that hatch feed on the leaves. Milkweed is the only food Monarch caterpillars eat and is essential to their survival. Common milkweed is Nature’s mega food market for insects. Over 450 insects are known to feed on some portion of the plant. 

Why plant for the Monarch Butterfly? This butterfly is one of the most studied in the Americas. It is reliant on three countries to ensure its survival – Canada, Mexico, and the USA. The annual migration cycle of the monarch butterfly has been described as the most spectacular in the insect world, an “endangered natural phenomenon.”

The Western monarch butterfly population has declined rapidly in the last few decades. In 2020, the numbers were so low that they were in danger of going extinct. They are now making a comeback but there’s still a long way to go!

The Monarchs from Eastern North America migrate to the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico.

The Monarchs in Western North America (west of the Rockies) migrate to the California Pacific Coast, to Santa Cruz and San Diego. Here, microclimatic conditions are very similar to that in central Mexico. Monarchs roost in eucalyptus, Monterey pines, and Monterey cypresses in California.

Monarchs can travel between 50-100 miles a day; it can take up to two months to complete their journey. The farthest-ranging monarch butterfly recorded traveled 265 miles in one day. 

Let us all help this amazing creature by planting Milkweed.

Our Team of Ameya, Kalpita, Aurora, Kavya, Jacqueline, and Rowen planted 2 different kinds of native milkweed. They created trays and seed balls of asciepias speciosa, and asciepias fasciularis.