The Monarch Mission
Geneva Lake Conservancy launches Monarch conservation plan
The beautiful orange and black Monarch butterflies are symbols of summertime in the Midwest. With their delicate wings and tiny bodies, they seem to float at the whim of the breezes. But they’re actually summer visitors from thousands of miles away. The lovely Monarchs winter in large numbers in central Mexico and wing their way north to breed and dine in the summer months. Unfortunately, the number of Monarchs summering in the central US has been in serious decline over the past several years. There are a number of reasons experts cite for this problem, but the main culprit seems to be the decline in milkweed, a common but critical plant in the Monarch lifecycle. Monarch lay their eggs on the underside of milkweed plants and the emerging Monarch caterpillars eat only milkweed to survive.
Milkweed plants used to be found in abundance along the roadsides and in fields all over the Midwest. In addition to milkweed for the caterpillar stage, adult butterflies need nectar from native plants to thrive. More recently, however, housing sprawl, weed trimming along roadsides and use of chemical sprays has greatly diminished the numbers of these native plants. And the number of Monarchs that are able to survive this change has also greatly diminished.
But we can do something to help. Many people are planting milkweed and other native flowering plants to create Monarch waystations in their backyards.
Common milkweed plants, in the Asclepias family, are actually easy to grow and can be a lovely addition to our gardens. There are four main varieties of milkweed common to the Eastern US; some grow best in hot sun and other varieties prefer less sun and more moist soil conditions.
Common Milkweed—Asclepias syrica
Butterfly Weed—Asclepias tuberosa
Swamp Milkweed—Aslepias incarnate
Whorled Milkweed—Asclepias verticillata
To help with this project, the Geneva Lake Conservancy is launching a local Monarch Mission with the sale of locally grown milkweed plants. You can order milkweed plants by clicking on the Order Milkweed Plants! tab or call GLC at (262) 275-5700. The deadline to order is April 1.