By Judy Sedbrook, Colorado Master GardenerSM, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver County
The dazzling appearance of Monarchs and other butterflies adds both color
and movement to the garden. Sadly, destruction of habitat sites and increased use of
pesticides have placed the Monarch in jeopardy.
Butterfly larva on milkweed
As important as milkweed is to Monarchs in their U.S. and Canadian summer habitat, this is only half the story. In fall, the Monarch butterfly migrates to spend the winter in the mountains of Mexico. According to "Monarch Watch", a joint effort by the University of Kansas Dept. of Entomology and the University of Minnesota Dept. of Ecology, mountain forests inhabited by this butterfly have declined from 42 acres in 1996-97 to 32 acres last winter and only an estimated 13.5 acres this year.
Habitat enhancement along the entire length of the Monarch's two migration paths are critical to survival. Colorado is sandwiched between the two paths along the Pacific coast and Midwest/East coast and hosts only "strays."
You can make your garden friendly to Monarchs and more plentiful Colorado dwelling butterflies such as Painted ladies and Colorado hairstreaks. Gardening practices that affect butterflies include overuse of pesticides, amount of nectar producing plants for adults and food plants for butterfly caterpillars.
Butterfly on milkweed
For Monarchs, milkweed is the caterpillar food.
Because the seeds so easily become airborne, pods should be discarded before they dry to avoid the spread of plants to areas of the garden where they are unwelcome.
A native American remedy, and historically used in patent medicines, the
milkweed plant is mildly toxic and will cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested. The milky
sap can cause irritation if it comes into contact with the eyes.
For more information on butterfly gardening see CSU Fact Sheet 5.504, Attracting Butterflies to the Garden.
For the latest research on the plight of the Monarch, see Monarchs and Bt corn.
Photographs by Judy Sedbrook.
Seed, plant and information sources:Monarch Watch
For more information on butterfly gardening see CSU Fact Sheet 5.504 Attracting Butterflies to the Garden.
© CSU/Denver County Extension Master Gardener 2010
888 E. Iliff Avenue, Denver, CO 80210
Date last revised: 01/05/2010