Tag Archives: Butterfly garden

Monarchs Migrate to State Parks

Between the months of April to September, monarch butterflies will travel up north from Mexico to New York as part of their annual migration and breeding season. During this time, multiple generations of monarch butterflies will breed and disperse across the Northeast region. With so many generations occurring in a short time period, it is vital that there are enough breeding areas, or waystations, for the monarchs to rely on for food and shelter. Over the past decade, the Eastern Monarch butterfly population has been on the decline due to logging of trees in overwintering areas, climate change, the possibility of disease and parasites, and the destruction of milkweed, which is the food source for the caterpillars.  It is imperative that we prevent any further decline of their population for this massive migration results in pollination of many flowers throughout the monarch butterflies journey.

monarch-butterfly-and-a-bee-feeding-on-the-nectar-from-a-swamp-milkweed-in-wilson-tuscarora-state-park-in-august-2016-photo-by-j-harris
Monarch butterfly and a bee feeding on the nectar from a swamp milkweed in Wilson Tuscarora State Park in August 2016. Photo by J. Harris

One of the ways we can support the monarch is to prevent the loss of milkweed and other native flora throughout the migration path. The destruction of milkweed has been caused in part from the over use of herbicides and more extensive and frequent mowing along roadsides. By leaving more edges, meadows and fields unmown milkweed will often come back.  Milkweed is important to every part of the monarch butterfly’s lifecycle because the plant provides the butterfly with a breeding ground to lay eggs on, a food source for the caterpillars after the eggs hatch, and the flowers provide nectar for the adults to feed on after their metamorphosis. Milkweed also helps protect monarch butterflies from predators due to the caterpillars ingesting toxins that the plant produces. After the caterpillars metamorphosis into butterflies, the toxins collected in their bodies makes them poisonous to eat. The nectar from the flowers on the milkweed, as well as other plant species, provides the adults with the energy to travel back down to Mexico and throughout the winter.

budd-termin-and-meg-janis-with-milkweed-plants-at-wilson-tuscarora-state-park-in-may-2016-photo-by-i-love-my-parks-day-volunteer
Budd Termin and Meg Janis with milkweed plants at Wilson-Tuscarora State Park in May 2016 Photo by an I Love My Parks day Volunteer

State Parks is working throughout the state on efforts to reduce mowing, support native milkweeds and other native flora, and to prevent loss of habitat to invasive species like swallowwort. A number of parks have established butterfly gardens or meadows to allow for up-close observation. In Western New York, State Parks has teamed up with Budd Termin from Niagara County Community College to create Monarch Watch gardens in the state parks as refuge for the butterflies during the migration season. Wilson-Tuscarora State Park has a monarch watch garden and plans for a garden are under way for Beaver Island State Park. Already established butterfly gardens at other state parks will eventually get certify under Monarch Watch as monarch waystations. The mission of these gardens is to provide the milkweed and other native plants for the monarchs, as well as other pollinators, in order to reestablish their population size. If anyone is curious on how the project is going, they can follow @Mission_Monarch on Twitter, or if anyone is interested in learning more about monarch conservation efforts and what they can do to contribute, they can visit Monarch Watch.

monarch-butterfly-laying-her-eggs-on-a-swamp-milkweed-located-in-the-butterfly-garden-at-wilson-tuscarora-state-park-in-august-2016-photo-by-j-harris
Monarch butterfly laying her eggs on a swamp milkweed located in the butterfly garden at Wilson Tuscarora State Park in August 2016. Photo by J. Harris

Post by Jillian Harris, State Parks

 

Butterflies in your Garden

Spring is finally here, and do you know who is migrating back to New York? Normally, the first answer to this classic question is “the birds.” Migrating birds are one of spring’s most welcoming signs, but there are other visions of spring popping up everywhere. If you don’t believe it, just check the new grasses and the plants just beginning to grow. It won’t be long before the caterpillars start crawling and the dragonflies begin darting.

Caterpillars are one reminder that spring is in bloom and summer is right around the corner. During this time of the year, the butterflies are finding their way back to the northeast where they lay their eggs, which hatch into caterpillars as quickly as 3-5 days.

Have you ever wanted your backyard to be full of these flying beauties? One way you can attract butterflies is to build a butterfly garden. These are not your typical flower beds. Different species of butterflies are attracted to different types of plants that provide them with the food they need to grow. Planting flowers which are native to New York is an important first step. To learn more about planting native, visit the New England Wildflower Society or the Audubon at Home page on creating backyard habitat. If you want to create your own butterfly garden, you must first learn what kinds of plants butterflies like to feed on. Here is a list of a few different butterflies and what plants they enjoy:

Monarch caterpillar. Photo by Julie Lundgren, NYNHP

Monarch

This bold orange beauty, shown in the featured image above, will feed on a number of different flowers and even drink the juice from overripe fruit, but Monarch caterpillars rely on only milkweed for their food. Milkweed is poisonous to many different creatures, but monarch larvae are able to tolerate the poison and store it in their body, making the caterpillars, and the adult butterflies, toxic to would-be predators. The bold colors are the butterflies’ way of saying “Caution!”

Mourning cloak butterfly. Photo by Edward H. Holsten, USDA Forest Service
Mourning cloak butterfly. Photo by Edward H. Holsten, USDA Forest Service

Mourning Cloak

You’ll have to look closely for this camouflaged butterfly. The morning cloak will eat rotting fruit so scan around fruit trees or berry bushes in the late spring or summer. One of their preferred foods is tree sap, especially from oak trees.

Painted Lady. Photo by Troy Weldy, NYNHP
Painted Lady. Photo by Troy Weldy, NYNHP

Painted Lady

Buttonbush. Photo by Timothy Howard, NYNHP
Buttonbush. Photo by Timothy Howard, NYNHP

The painted lady’s bold reddish-orange top wings are quite different than its subtle gray bottom wings. The painted lady will feast on flowers, and has a surprisingly soft spot for thistles. Don’t worry; the painted ladies enjoy the lovely buttonbush, just as much as spiky thistles

Red Admiral Butterfly. Photo by SteveNanz.com
Red Admiral Butterfly. Photo by SteveNanz.com

Red Admiral

This butterfly may look somewhat similar to the painted lady, but it’s much different when it comes to food. The red admiral prefers sap flows in trees and rotting fruit, but if it can’t get that, it goes for flowers. Oddly enough, this butterfly also enjoys bird droppings, but you don’t have to worry about putting those in your garden.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Photo by Lilly Schelling.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Photo by Lilly Schelling.
Hello there! photo by Thomas P. LeBlanc, Allegany State Park

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

This big butterfly certainly lives up to its name. The eastern tiger swallowtail enjoys meals of wild cherry and lilac. Like the monarch, it also feeds on milkweed, especially in the summer. Its caterpillar can fool predators with the amusing eyespots on its large head.

 

For more information about these butterflies and more, go to the link below for identification tips and information:

http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Papilio-glaucus

When planting your butterfly garden, make sure to keep some space between the plants for easier tending. It may take some time for the butterflies to become aware of the new food source, but with patience and time, you are sure to see them flapping before long. If you want them to stay, consider putting up a butterfly house among the flowers. If you don’t have a green thumb, many of our state parks have butterfly gardens that you can visit, find one near you at NYSParks.com!

featured image is a monarch butterfly by Lilly Schelling.

Post by Mary Greagan.