Thursday, November 1, 2007

Monarch Butterflies, Milkweed, and My Garden

Monarch on showy milkweed
Monarch Butterfly on Showy Milkweed-Yosemite National Park, Summer 2006

Last summer our family observed monarch butterflies among the milkweed at Yosemite National Park. There is a big meadow filled with milkweed within view of Half Dome. My interest in Monarch butterflies has grown from that experience and since we have a butterfly garden in our backyard, I began to think about adding some milkweed to the variety of plants we grow.

The Handbook of Nature Study talks about Monarch butterflies on pages 305-310 and page 309 has the observation questions for all three phases: butterfly, caterpillar, and chrysalis. I learned a lot from reading just those few pages and now I can refer back to them when we start to observe the life cycle of the Monarchs in our backyard habitat.

“This lesson may be given in September, while yet the caterpillars of the monarch may be found feeding upon milkweed, and while there are yet many specimens of this gorgeous butterfly to be seen. The caterpillars may be brought in on the food plant, and their habits and performances studied in the schoolroom; but care should be taken not to have the atmosphere too dry.”

Page 307
“The caterpillar will feed upon no plant except milkweed; it feeds both day and night, with intervals of rest and when resting hides beneath the leaf.”

“The monarch chrysalis is, I maintain, the most beautiful gem in Nature’s jewel casket; it is an oblong jewel of jade, darker at the upper end and shading to the most exquisite whitish green below; outlining this lower paler portion are shining flecks of gold. If we look at these gold flecks with a lens, we cannot but believe that they are bits of polished gold foil.”

I don’t have milkweed or monarch butterflies in my backyard. I did find a website that will send you milkweed plants to grow in your garden and in my ongoing development of a great butterfly garden, I am going to plant some milkweed. I am going to get some monarch caterpillars so we can start hatching them this spring and start an area that they will visit us in.

Here is the website:Live Monarch

I have been to Pacific Grove, CA and seen the monarchs in the monarch sanctuary where they winter up in the trees and it is quite a sight to see. The
Handbook of Nature Study has some great suggestions for studying these insects and I will keep you posted as our Monarch butterfly project progresses.

Barb -Harmony Art Mom

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