Monarch season arrives in Minnesota

  • Article by: LISA MEYERS MCCLINTICK
  • Updated: August 28, 2014 - 6:34 PM

Sightings of Minnesota’s state butterfly are peaking — as is the time to gather milkweed seeds for fall planting.

hide

Sightings of newly-hatched monarchs are peaking about now.

Photo: LISA MEYERS McCLINTICK,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

Two Augusts ago, my eagle-eyed 8-year-old spotted a green chrysalis attached to our family’s crabapple tree. We carefully removed it and kept it in a jar on a shady windowsill.

It sat there for just over a week with a crown of tiny dots that looked like 14-karat gold. Then the green began to darken one morning. Within an hour the darkness turned to transparence and the telltale orange, black and white markings of the monarch began to show through.

Seeing it emerge almost miraculously with moist wings and gently escorting it outside a few hours later rank among our family’s favorite wildlife experiences — and we didn’t even leave our back yard. The butterfly sat on our fingers for a few minutes, seemingly unafraid and content until it was ready to spread brand-new wings. Then it lifted up as light and fluttery as a breeze.

For butterfly fans, this year brings good news after last year’s plunge in the number of monarchs.

“We’re actually seeing a bounce-back,” said Karen Oberhauser, director of the University of Minnesota’s Monarch Lab. While counts from early this summer aren’t considered high, “I can say we’re cautiously optimistic, that we’re seeing a rebound in the population.”

Monarch sightings should be peaking by mid- to late August as newly hatched monarchs join the population and begin gathering on trees and plants in clusters by the end of August into September.

The great-great-grandchildren of monarchs that arrive in the spring will ultimately make the 1,000- to 3,000-mile journey south — butterflies living east of the Rockies will travel to Mexico, while those west of the Rockies will head for California.

Besides the gathering monarchs, now is also a great time to look for common milkweed and the cottony puffs of seeds for fall planting. The monarch’s admirers also might consider enhancing their gardens with butterfly-attracting perennials including pink-flowered swamp milkweed, orange-flowered butterfly weed, joe pye weed, red bee balm, purple coneflowers and wild purple asters.

Restoring milkweed, though, is most important for monarchs, and there are grass-roots efforts to expand this essential habitat in back yards, public spaces and parks so the butterflies have more places to lay their eggs. Milkweed also serves as a way station for feeding and resting as the butterflies make the huge journey south.

According to the University of Kansas-based Monarch Watch, the United States loses about 6,000 acres of wildlife habitat to development per day, or about 2.2 million acres per year — more than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. Genetically modified crops and ditches sprayed with herbicides and roadside mowing also reduce available milkweed.

For our family, milkweed came with our yard. Whether it was placed intentionally or not, the ever-present plant has caused some debate with its gangly and sometimes weedy-looking patches. If you’re like me, you may find that your spouse is itching to pull it out.

It’s fine to control milkweed — especially if it’s starting to take over the yard — as long as you leave a few plants standing, said Oberhauser, before adding: “I’m seeing more and more milkweed in people’s gardens.”

Join butterfly watches

If you find yourself fascinated by monarchs and want to be more than a casual observer, there are many ways to get involved in boosting their numbers and bolstering research.

The University of Minnesota’s Citizen Watch program (www.mlmp.org) has volunteers that monitor milkweed for larva at more than 900 sites across the United States, Canada and Mexico.

If you spot eggs, they typically hatch within three to six days depending on the weather, Oberhauser said. The iconic yellow-, white- and black-striped caterpillars spend nine to 14 days making their way across the milkweed, eating, growing and shedding their skin about five times to fit their growing size.

The final step is the green chrysalis, which protectively blends in with leaves, keeping the creature safe for the eight- to 14-day transformation into a butterfly.

  • related content

  • Cabin Country: Another word for cabin

    Friday August 29, 2014

    In Minnesota, when someone has another house, usually smaller than their “real” house, sometimes on a lake or in the woods, it is called a “cabin.” But in the Upper...

  • Saving the monarchs

    Thursday August 28, 2014

    Save Our Monarchs (www.saveourmonarchs.org) is a nonprofit launched this summer with the goal of planting more milkweed. The plant provides...

  • Rare wildflowers bloom on Minnesota's prairie

    Thursday August 28, 2014

    [T]he prairie plants yearly repeat their story, in technicolor, from the first pale blooms of pasque in April to the...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Toronto - LP: M. Stroman 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: W. Chen 5
Washington - WP: S. Strasburg 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: E. Santana 2
Miami - WP: S. Dyson 6 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: J. Familia 5
NY Yankees - LP: S. Kelley 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: J. Peralta 1
Cincinnati - LP: P. Villarreal 0 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: H. Rondon 1
Chicago WSox - LP: J. Petricka 3 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: W. Davis 4
Cleveland - LP: Z. McAllister 1 FINAL
Houston - WP: C. McHugh 3
Detroit - WP: K. Ryan 8 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: C. Fien 6
Los Angeles - WP: J. Wright 11 FINAL
Colorado - LP: C. Bergman 3
San Francisco - LP: R. Vogelsong 2 FINAL
Arizona - WP: W. Miley 6
Seattle - LP: H. Iwakuma 1 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: M. Shoemaker 8
Philadelphia - LP: J. Williams 0 FINAL
San Diego - WP: A. Cashner 1
Philadelphia 30 FINAL
Indianapolis 27
Tampa Bay 9/18/14 7:25 PM
Atlanta
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
(5) Auburn 9/18/14 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close