Hi, and, a mid-summer sweltering day to you! We’re well into those days when I am out of the garden by 8/9 a.m. That is, if I’m out there at all. How about you? I learned early on that not only are pollinator gardens good for wildlife, they’re great for us. Ongoing maintenance is cut by ¾. We can relax while the butterflies and bees are ‘abuzzin.’ But, I’ll go into that at a later date.
Right now, how about some interesting facts about Monarchs? We are familiar generally with the AMAZING Monarch due to all the books, videos, and articles written about them. If you haven’t already, just google. Here are a few fun facts about our very own Florida Monarchs. They show us why the Monarch is the Bloom and Grow Garden Society’s club symbol with its strength, determination, and the capacity to change and grow. Impress your friends and neighbors!
FUN TO KNOW FACTS
Monarchs have developed 3 migrating destinations – West (California), Central (Mexico), and South (Florida).
South Florida has a permanent Monarch population which is active year round. In addition, millions migrate through Florida to Mexico, and back in the spring.
The BEST place to see thousands of roosting monarchs during migration is at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge near Tallahassee – from the beginning of October to mid-November. Try the area by the old lighthouse, just a few miles past the visitor center
Southern Florida monarchs DO NOT diapause (take a break over winter) so all the charts you see are probably WRONG. We have 6-7 generations in a year, although there are a lot fewer numbers from November to February.
Because ANY freeze will kill Monarchs (caterpillars and adults), central and northern Florida do not maintain a dependable resident population.
General survival rate of Monarch larva (caterpillars) in the wild is 3%. A single pair of chickadees must catch 7,500 caterpillars to raise one clutch of young. While bird feeders help adult birds, ALL bird chicks must be fed protein for maximum health – that’s caterpillars and insects, not grain and nuts.
The Florida population of monarchs has DROPPED 80% since 2005 – due to loss of habitat, loss of milkweed, and use of insecticides. They NEED our help and it’s easy.
The word is out that Monarchs MUST have milkweed to survive. Florida has over 15 species of native milkweed, and they can be found at native nurseries. Don’t know where? Simply google.
Why only milkweed? The toxins in milkweed are poisonous to mammals, thus monarch caterpillars have developed their own protection from predators.
Native Swamp milkweed grows most dependably for inexperienced gardeners. Although called Swamp, it will grow in all of Florida soils, partial shade to full sun, and drought tolerant within 3 years. Put it at the back of the bed, next to the fence/edge.
GENERAL BUTTERFLY/MOTH FUN FACTS
ALL butterflies/moths have specific plants which caterpillars will eat. These are called host plants, and by placing them in the garden, the butterflies/moths will be attracted, and will STAY.
Nectar plants are important for ALL pollinators, as they are the food/sugar source for all adults. However, if you only have nectar plants, the butterflies/moths are simply PASSING THROUGH.
Butterflies/moths are forms of lepidoptera – generally, butterflies are active during the day and moths are active at night. Over time, butterflies developed those bright colors in the sun. Ever notice that moths (when you see them) are usually browns and tans? Moths are active pollinators for night blooming plants.
Love the Florida State Butterfly? It’s the Zebra Longwing. I marvel at how it flutters. I’ve not seen any other butterfly do that but, if you do, please plant a Passion Flower Vine or plant, as it is their host. Also, I just learned that they prefer to lay eggs on lightly shaded undersides of the leaves, so plant accordingly.
That’s it for now – hope you’ve enjoyed the info and I’ll be back with some FUN FACTS for POLLINATORS soon.