The wild look of your butterfly garden delights the most common butterfly in North America, the Monarch. Year-round residents in our area, Monarchs can be lured to your garden with a patch of tall milkweed. This is the only food source that larvae will eat and the plants can be devoured in a matter of days by hungry caterpillars. Milkweed, Pentas, Lantana, Spanish Nettle, Porterweed, Salvias and much more are great nectar sources for adult Butterflies. Monarch caterpillars and Butterflies who feed on milkweed retain poisonous molecules from the milkweed so they become distasteful to their predators.
The Monarchs in the rest of the United States are migratory, spending only the Winters in Mexico (snowbirds, if you will). The adult flies South in the fall either through Florida or Texas making a 2000-mile trek. In the Spring, they fly back, but this time it takes 3 to 4 generations to make it to the Northeast. Then the journey begins again in the Fall.
Another milkweed butterfly, the Queen is very similar in color to the Monarch. The Queen caterpillars have 3 sets of antennae versus 2 with the Monarch. The Queens are not as prolific as the Monarchs, but they do live in Martin County.
Monarchs are great butterflies for kids to raise and release. The caterpillars can be raised in an enclosed space like a butterfly house from caterpillar all the way to adult. This cycle will happen in 3 to 4 weeks. If you’re making a home for Monarchs, you will need a lot of milkweed as it really is impressive how much they will eat!