Around Our Grounds: Identifying & Preserving Monarchs and Milkweed

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Written by Anthony Morelli

On July 5, 2019

As an orange butterfly flits by, can you tell if it is a monarch?

The perfect wings of a recently emerged butterfly will later be faded and worn.  butterfly male and female species will be strikingly different.  The time of the year can actually change a butterfly’s looks and size.

How can you know?

Monarchs stopping in our community are known to be on the southern part of their fall migration in August and September.  If it is early July, that orange butterfly may not be a Monarch.

Did you see the butterfly with its wings closed?

Both sides of a Monarch, above and below, have similar black lines and color areas on their wings.  The female Monarch has wider veins on the wings.  If there are less thistles and milkweed blooming around Lake Holiday, you may have fewer chances to see Great Spangled Fritillaries stopping to enjoying favorite nectar sources.  The pattern below the wings on the Great Spangled Fritillary is not similar to the pattern above the wings.  The male Monarch has a dot along a vein on the hindwings.  The Viceroy mimics the Monarch’s coloring, and has a thin black stripe across the hindwings’ veins.

Milkweed conservation, as well as protecting and preserving monarch habitats, seems to be helping maintain the Monarch population.  We as a community must continue to take care of our milkweed.  Fresh milkweed leaves are the choice for tiny caterpillars to eat.  Of the many species of milkweed, the most frequently seen species in Lake Holiday is Common Milkweed, or Asclepias Syriaca.

Common Milkweed plants have been visible since May.  Now, the milkweed plants may be four-to-five feet tall, with leaves in the seven-to-ten-inch range.  Common Milkweed will have recently bloomed or just be blooming as you read this article.  You may see other species of butterflies visiting the milkweed flower for nectar.

Milkweed

If you are interested in learning more, the following website follows the Monarchs’ yearly migration:

https://journeynorth.org/monarchs.

~Frances Coates and Becky Barker

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