Last year I saw only one monarch butterfly and found only one monarch caterpillar at our house. This is after cultivating milkweed at numerous spots around my yard and planting three seasons of nectar plants. The only other monarchs my family was lucky enough to see were hatched by the Wild Center and at the Paul Smiths VIC Butterfly House as part of their programs to raise awareness regarding the perils of the monarch habitat.
Since milkweed is critically important to monarchs, both butterfly and caterpillars, we decided to widen our milkweed patch. Last fall we did a bit of seed sprinkling along the berm across the street from our house. I followed up with a few phone calls to our town supervisor and highway crew to let them know I could maintain the patch. It was important for me to communicate with as many people as possible. It was an encouraging conversation.
Now that the trees are finally starting to bud, my children and I are on the lookout for young milkweed shoots. We hope that this new patch will encourage a few more butterflies to make our street a monarch stopover.
In the Adirondacks, be sure to plant common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) seeds that come from a reliable source. Keep in mind you don’t need to be within the Blue Line to plant milkweed. Contact ADK Action and a packet of seeds can be sent to you. Make sure to cold stratify the seeds before planting. It’s easy enough. I just place the seeds in a moist paper towel and then in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for about three weeks. I check occasionally to see if any seeds are germinating, loosen a little dirt around the berm, and scatter the seeds.
Once the milkweed is established, it’s a waiting game. To borrow from The Lorax, perhaps milkweed seeds “are what everyone needs.” The monarchs certainly think so.
Photo of common milkweed shoots used with the permission of Diane Chase, AdirondackFamilyTime.com.