Dig It!
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Dig It! Garden Blog

Preparing for Monarchs: The Migration of Our Flying Hort Staff

Monarch on Buddleja davidii 'Attraction' Butterfly Bush

A sweet, earthy wind blows over the green and soggy Great Lawn. It settles at times, letting the sun take a turn at warming your cheeks, but it remains persistent, bending grasses and branches. The wind bears on it warmth, and rain, and the promise of thousands of tiny wing beats making their way slowly and steadily from Mexico to Maine.

Like so many of Maine’s residents, Monarch butterflies spend the winter in the relative warmth in the south, though unlike our human snowbirds, they cluster together high in the trees in central Mexico, turning the forests of Michoacán a brilliant orange. They begin their return to the north just after mating and for many of the butterflies migrating, their first trip to Maine happens just a few weeks into their adulthood.

These migrating monarchs follow an ancestral path northward, but even the best butterfly navigators must stop for food! Adult butterflies rely upon areas with nectar-filled wildflowers and milkweed to stop for food and to reproduce. Areas that were once landing spots for monarchs will be noticeably monarch-less without these important plants. To help welcome our beautiful and important pollinators to Maine, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens has committed to being a Colossal Monarch Waystation by planting native milkweeds and wildflowers to give them the best chance of survival and successful reproduction.

Monarch Caterpillar DSC_0499sm4x5

As winter gives way to spring, now is a great time to think about ways you can prepare for the arrival of our beautiful summer residents! When they arrive in the gardens this summer, they will join monarch butterflies raised here by the CMBG horticulture staff that will be released into the Gardens. We will be updating the Dig It! blog with pictures and information about the process of raising and supporting monarch butterflies. You can learn more about what you can do at home and get excited about the butterflies you’ll see when you come to see us, right here on our blog! Check out these sites below to watch the progress of the migration, find out more about native wildflowers and milkweeds you can plant in your greenspace, and keep an eye on our blog as we get ready to greet our favorite horticultural helpers!

Monarch Watch: http://www.monarchwatch.org/
• free native milkweeds
• become a waystation

Monarch Butterfly Journey North: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/monarch/index.html
• track the migration
• get updates on factors influencing the migration
• log your sightings to help researchers