Searching for Milkweed!

Our Triad Council strives to provide information to support and protect senior citizens. Since many of us find satisfaction, joy, and solace when working in our gardens and yards, I'll digress from the usual senior safety reminders and tips this spring issue. Instead I ask all of us, as we go about preparing planting areas and perhaps making more expansive lawns, to weed around the only host plant for the migrating Monarch Butterfly: Milkweed. It needs our protection. Monarchs only lay their eggs on milkweed plants; after they lay their eggs, they die. The eggs hatch into white & black striped caterpillars, feed on the milkweed, and grow into butterflies.

Milkweed produces toxins to deter animals from eating it, but monarchs have evolved immunity to these toxins. As they feed, monarch caterpillars store up the toxins in their bodies, making them taste bad which in turn deters their predators. The toxins remain in their system protecting them even after they are transformed into adult butterflies. Most adult monarchs only live for a few weeks, searching for mates, and for milkweed on which to lay their eggs. The generation of monarchs that hatches in the late summer delays finding a mate and undertakes a spectacular fall migration to their wintering grounds in Mexico. This migratory generation can live up to 8 months!

In the spring, the survivors begin their migration back north to mate in search of milkweed plants to lay eggs. Do your part to protect this butterfly and its amazing, one-of-a-kind, long-distance journey. Search out the milkweed plant and protect it to allow this unique butterfly, the monarch, to survive.