Monarch Butterflies: Will we lose them?
Every year in NC, spring and fall brings the migration of the Monarch Butterfly to our state. Sadly, in today’s world, we are now experiencing a reduction of what some say is up to 90% loss of these beautiful creatures.
By 2014, the situation had become so serious that a petition was filed to have this butterfly added to the endangered species list. Monarch “waystations” have been developed, and more and more people are planting milkweed, the favored food for Monarchs, to replace free range milkweed, which has been decimated by the use of pesticides, most notably Round-up. According to a report by Mother Jones, Monsanto presented what are called “Roundup Ready” seeds in 1996. These seeds were resistant to herbicides, could withstand heavy doses of Roundup, and many larger farm operations began relying heavily on the herbicide, vs the tilling to remove weeds that was previously done. Although milkweed, the favored food of Monarchs, can resist tilling to a certain degree, the increased use of the herbicides is more than this plant can survive.
The Monarchs prefer three basic milkweeds, seen below for our area.
Fortunately, there are also other plants that can be easily incorporated into the landscape that attract Monarchs: for one, the popular Coneflower.
Monarch on Coneflower
Other suggestions follow, and many of these can also double in assisting our bees, which are also experiencing a frightening decline.
Indian Blanket, Mexican Sunflower, Joe Pye Weed, Scarlet Sage, Zinnias
How you can help: Create a monarch waystation!
A “waystation” is fairly simple to grow, and can be done in the home garden, at schools, parks, and other available spots. An excellent guide for establishing one can be found at Monarch Watch. Please see their website for more details. When reseaching for milkweed sources in NC, we did find a few, and I will include them at the end of this post. However, I do want to mention that I was warned repeatedly that these sell out quickly, as word of the plight of Monarchs spreads. Monarch Watch offers a starter kit for plants at a fairly reasonable price of $16.00. Below, please find what your kit for our area will contain.
or you can call: 800 780 9986.
“Each Monarch Waystation Seed Kit includes a total of nine (9) seed packs, including milkweeds and additional nectar plants. PLEASE NOTE: the actual species included in each kit may vary due to seed availability.
The Standard Monarch Waystation Seed Kit, for gardens east of the Rocky Mountains, contains the following species: MILKWEED Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) GENERAL NECTAR PLANTS Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella) Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea) Tithonia Torch, Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia) Zinnia, Dahlia Mix (Zinnia elegans)”
Monarch Watch also offers free milkweed for schools and non-profits. Please see the following link for specific details
If you would prefer to purchase from a North Carolina company, we did find the following nurseries had either plugs or actual plants, and Gardens of the Blue Ridge also offers seeds for sale. Some on our list were ureachable or were out of stock, so for clarity’s sake, I am not including them here.
Niche Gardens in Chapel Hill
919 967 0078
At time of printing, Niche Gardens has the Tuberosa (butterfly weed) & swamp milkweed. These are sold in one quart containers and are dormant plants at this time.
Plant Delights in Raleigh
919 772 4794
Plant Delights has the Incarnata milkweed available
Gardens of the Blue Ridge in Newland
Gardens of the Blue Ridge has a variety of options available for milkweed. Please call or see website for details.
The following two nurseries are whole sale suppliers, and although they sell to the general public, you will need to check with them for details.
Wetland Plants in Edenton
252 482 5707
Mellow Marsh Farm in Siler City
919 742 1200
For future reading:
**Special Note: Roughly 1/2 hour from Asheville is a road called Wagon Gap. In September and for several weeks after, this can be an ideal spot to view the fall migration. To learn more, please check this link from Explore Asheville, which also includes an interactive map.
Use of Roundup: Mother Jones
National Wildlife Federation: Saving Monarchs