Monarch Migration

The monarch migration has begun! We are seeing so many monarchs in the Cherry Creek habitat this week. This is really good news.  Thousands of monarchs died in Mexico due to a surprise snow storm, in March, before they started their migration this spring. The fact that there are so many this fall is a good sign.  We will remain hopeful that the population will rebound.

monarchzinnia92216

Monarch on zinnia in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat in September.

monarchs92216

Several monarchs on the zinnias in the pollinator habitat during fall migration.

To continue helping monarchs and other pollinators in the fall it is important to have fall blooming perennial plants like asters and tall sedum.  Also consider annual flowers such as zinnias and sunflowers in the landscape too.

Enjoy the great fall weather!

MJ

Where have the butterflies gone?

Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar in parsley. Photo by Jody Green

Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar in parsley. Photo by Jody Green, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County.

As I drove home yesterday, a monarch butterfly flew very near my truck! I was relieved to have missed it (or it missed me!) Unlike other years, I just haven’t encountered a lot of butterflies in my pollinator garden at home or on the road.

Are you seeing butterflies and moths? Are you also wondering where the butterflies have gone? I’ve gotten several calls from people who grow host plants in their landscapes specifically for butterflies. Some call me every year to report what they are seeing. But, like my own garden, people are reporting very few butterflies or caterpillars. Continue reading

Monarch Numbers Up, More to Do

monarchswampmilkweed

Monarch butterfly on swamp milkweed.

We received good news today.  Monarch butterfly numbers are up in their wintering grounds in Mexico. But there is much we need to do to keep them off the endangered species list. We need to increase habitat for them in their summer breeding areas.  Nebraska is right in the middle of this important location in North America.

This week I was invited to a Monarch Summit.  The Monarch Planning Team held a two day summit for discussion to begin on a Nebraska Monarch & Pollinator Conservation Plan. Invited speaker,  Dr. Chip Taylor, Director of Monarch Watch gave us Monarch statistics and shared helpful guidance to get us underway forming a plan for Nebraska.

There is plenty we can do now. This spring, plant milkweed and native plants. Reduce the use of pesticides. Create a pollinator habitat in your landscape. Learn more about the Monarch Waystation Program at MonarchWatch.org

MJ

 

What is Blooming in the Habitat-September

Asters are one of my favorite flowers. Smooth aster, Aster laevis, is blooming now in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. This native aster produces an abundance of lavender-blue flowers through late autumn.

smooth aster

Smooth Aster is upright with arching branches and reaches 3 feet tall. It easily grows in dry to medium, well-drained soil in full sun.  Asters are a must for your perennial garden. All bees, bumble bees and butterflies flock to asters.  They are an excellent stopover plant for migrating Monarchs.

MJ

What is Blooming in the Habitat

Hoary vervain (Verbena stricta) is one of my favorite native wildflowers.

Hoary vervain, a native wildflower.

Hoary vervain, a native wildflower.

It is blooming in the habitat now.  The plant has beautiful purple-blue flowers and blooms for at least 6 weeks.  It gets 2 feet tall and prefers drier soil conditions.  I always see bumblebees visiting the flowers, as well as butterflies and solitary bees.

MJ

What is blooming in the habitat

Prairie ragwort is a native plant that blooms May through June. This wildflower is a biennial or short-lived perennial that is approximately one foot tall.  It attracts many pollinators like bees, flies, moths and butterflies.

MJ

Prairie ragwort blooming now in the Cherry Creek Habitat.

Prairie ragwort blooming now in the Cherry Creek Habitat.

Teaching Youth about Pollinators

Yesterday Soni and I were presenters at the Outdoor Discovery Program held at Platte River State Park.  The weather was perfect, sunny, with a slight breeze. We taught 4th graders about pollinators and what they need for a habitat. We discussed one out of every three bites of food we eat is there because of pollinators. We asked the youth if they could make a list of pollinators and they easily mentioned bees, butterflies, bats and hummingbirds. The kids were surprised to learn that flies and beetles could be pollinators too. We talked about native solitary bees and showed them bee houses.The youth were able to view pollinators in action since it was a beautiful spring day and there were blooming wild plums near our site.  The kids were provided journals so they could record their observations. Thank you Nebraska Game and Parks for providing youth this wonderful educational opportunity.

M J

Waiting for kids to arrive.

Waiting for kids to arrive.

Butterfly Byway in Nebraska!

Butterfly Byway poster by Great Plains Ecotourism Coalition.

Butterfly Byway poster by Great Plains Ecotourism Coalition.

I received an early Christmas present from my husband.  I framed this fabulous poster and hung it in my office.  I love that our state is promoting the great assets we have here in Nebraska. Assets that have always been here and will continue to be here if we are good stewards. There are 12 posters in the collection.  Go to Visit The Prairie at http://visittheprairie.com/ to see the collection and order a poster or postcards.  My husband picked up my poster at Hardin Hall here in Lincoln (33rd & Holdrege). The Great Plains Ecotourism Coalition is committed to promoting environmental conservation and building thriving communities through nature-based tourism in the Great Plains. The Coalition includes both non-profit and for-profit members and is coordinated by staff at the Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

MJ

Collecting Seeds

Common milkweed seeds ready to relocate by the wind.

Common milkweed seeds ready to relocate by the wind.

Another beautiful fall day!  It is a perfect day to collect seeds from native plants.  Our milkweeds are going to seed, so it is important to collect some before they all go poof in the wind.  After collecting the seeds, you can replant them in a new location as soon as possible. They will germinate next spring.  If you are saving the seeds, be sure to give them time to dry out completely before you store them.  They will rot if not dried properly.  Be sure to label the envelope or container you store them in.

Monarch Watch needs milkweed seed donations to continue their Monarch habitat restoration efforts. Monarch Watch is a nonprofit educational outreach program based at the University of Kansas. Visit their website at monarchwatch.org  to learn more about their efforts in saving monarch butterflies.

MJ

Swamp milkweed seeds.

Swamp milkweed seeds.

Butterflies!

The last few days we have notice more Monarch butterflies in the area.  Many butterflies and moths have been seen in the habitat. Black swallowtail, painted lady, cloudless sulphur, pearl crescent and mourning cloak butterflies have been seen this year. Whitelined sphinx, yellow collared scape, chickweed geometer and several skipper moths have also been identified.
It is important to provide a food source for the caterpillars in the habitat. Swallowtail caterpillars feed on dill and parsley. Painted lady caterpillars feed on sunflower and thistle. As we all know Monarch caterpillars feed on milkweed. I am impressed as I drive around Lincoln at how many landscapes have common milkweed growing in them. Even school landscapes have milkweed! It has been reported for several years that monarch populations are declining. A coalition has submitted a petition for the U.S. Department of the Interior to protect monarchs under the Endangered Species Act.
This summer my family raised several monarch caterpillars in a butterfly rearing tent. The eggs were located on very small plants that would not provide enough food or were located in an area in jeopardy of being mowed or stepped on. It was amazing to watch the caterpillars complete their life cycle and a thrill to release the butterflies in our backyard habitat.
MJ

Swallowtail caterpillar on parsley.

Swallowtail caterpillar on parsley.

Black swallowtail butterfly on tall thistle.

Black swallowtail butterfly on tall thistle.

Monarch butterfly ready to leave rearing tent.

Monarch butterfly ready to leave rearing tent.