CO-Horts Blog

Monday, October 15, 2018

Fall is for Butterflies, too!

Painted Lady on Okra, Photo Credit: Linda Langelo
Fall is a time when color abounds with the changing season and during that same time there are butterfly migrations.  September is a month where Painted Lady and/or Monarchs can be seen in high numbers.  Unfortunately, there high numbers are diminishing.  According to World Wildlife Fund and the Mexican government due to habitat destruction from illegal logging and tourism in the small patches of forests in Mexico where they overwinter.

If you want to see Painted Lady Butterflies and/or Monarchs and others and help with their population numbers, then think about giving them food sources in your landscape.  Monarch caterpillars require milkweed while the adults take nectar from cosmos, Canada thistle, rabbitbrush, zinnias and many more flowers.
Monarch on aster, Photo Credit Linda Langelo

There are several sites you can go to for information on planting the appropriate plants in your region:

  •   National Wildlife Foundation
  •   Biota of North America's North American Plant
  •   USDA's Plant Database
  •  Colorado State University Fact Sheet on Attracting Butterflies to the Garden
If you are anything like me and want to keep the color in your garden going until the very end of the season, below are a couple of ways to join in and help change the habitat for the benefit of Monarchs, Painted Lady Butterflies and many other pollinating insects:

  • Start a Monarch Watch waystation. You can register your garden.  By doing that you receive a sign advertising your garden's friendliness to monarchs.  Then the name of the city and waystation owner will be listed on the program's website.
  • The North American Butterfly Association has certification program that covers habitat requirements for all butterflies.
  • Wild Ones launched a monarch-specific certification program for gardens planted with species native to North America.
  • The Xerces Society has a certification for "pollinator habitat" program.
All are pollinators need more gardens appropriately developed since cities and even small towns create what is called interrupted spaces.  These are places such as asphalted parking lots and areas expanding with newly constructed developments.  Adding a few key plants to your garden can color up your fall garden and benefit your landscape's ecosystem and attract more color through many fascinating pollinators.

Coloring your garden with key plants can make it a local food bank for butterflies, moths and many more pollinators.  According to Karen Oberhauser, a monarch researcher at University of Minnesota along with other scientists, points out that monarchs "are the flagship species. By preserving monarch habitat that includes nectar sources and milkweed, we're going to be helping a lot of other organisms as well."

Overnight guests on a cotoneaster, Photo Credit: Teresa Howes

Monarchs have a fascinating story.  The Monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains migrate to Mexico to the oyamel fir trees.  The Monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains migrate to Southern California.  Monarchs can not tolerate the freezing temperatures of our climate.  By the end of summer the fourth generation of Monarchs migrate back south starting in October or sooner if the weather turns cold.  They migrate north because of the milkweed necessary for the caterpillar stage of their lifecycle.  This is just a brief summary of their very detailed life.

Fall isn't just for the fascinating colors of leaves, it is for the butterflies, too.  And yes, all the other pollinators, too. 

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