The Mexican (Tropical) Milkweed is almost gone, whilst the other Milkweed species are beginning to experience the feeding frenzy from our plump little residents. As the food source for Monarch caterpillars is vanishing fast, a call goes out to those that can adopt a cat or two for their own yards. There are several things that need to be fulfilled in order to raise Monarch cats to adulthood:
- Host plants such as Milkweed. That's all they feast on, folks. Two relatively easy Milkweed plants to find in our local nurseries are Asclepias curassavica and A. tuberosa, A. curassavica being the most readily available in our area. Most nurseries will special order them for you if they don't stock them. I know Armstrong is really good about that. A full, one gallon plant should host one small-to-medium-sized cat until it forms a chrysalid.
- A sunny place to put the Milkweed in your garden. The two species are perennial and will live for many years. You can keep them in their nursery containers for a season and then donate them to the butterfly garden, or keep them indefinitely in a 5 gal. sized pot or bigger. Better yet, find a cozy, out of the way little corner of your garden and plant the sucker there! Average water and fertilizer.
- A willingness to forgive the little creatures their penchant for eating everything their host will provide up until they pupate. Yes, the plants get ugly, and they eventually may attract and harbor the Oleander Aphid and/or the Milkweed Bug, but these pests are host specific just like the cats and will not attack other plants in the yard... except for the Aphids may move to any Nerium Oleander you may have growing close by. Once the weather turns cold, these pests die off.
Also in the news is one can see several Monarch butterfly chrysalids dangling from various places in the butterfly garden. I'll point them out to you if you're in the park and I'm near the garden.
Some folks have seen large Monarch caterpillars scampering across the lawn bordering the butterfly garden or have seen them crawling up the wall of the nearest baseball dugout. They aren't lost, they're looking for anything that goes "up" in order to secure a spot where they can form a chrysalis. That's O.K. If one feels inclined to pick one up and move it back to the Milkweed plants, they'll most likely scamper off again to find their own little spot on this globe. If moved, place them in a large bush or one of the Oak trees close to the garden. That way, they'll have a relatively safe and elevated place to do their thing. Please refrain from kissing them though; Monarch cats are sooo cute!!!
Two weeks ago, I counted two Monarch butterflies flitting about the garden. One week ago, the count was four. Last week it was up to six. This coming week, I intend to see 8+ adults calling Alta home.
If anyone is interested in germinating and growing some Milkweed for the garden, that would be GREATLY appreciated! There is plenty of ripe seed for the Mexican Milkweed that could use some planting in containers and grown until next spring for planting in the butterfly garden. I will supply the seed, containers and soil, if you supply the TLC in your yard for their growth. I have no means of doing this myself, and funding is tight for buying plants outright for the garden. The only way it is growing now is through volunteer seedlings germinating and from divisions I create from already established plants. If one wants to take some seed home for their own g... and if anyone has Tithonia growing and is willing to part with a plant or two, I would love to try it in the garden. My guess though is that the bunnies and deer would ravage them, but hey, it's worth a try!