Monarch Migration Made Easy
It was a cool summer morning in late summer, I was taking a long walk along the beach at my favorite Jersey shore town. Atop the sand I noticed a bright orange and black figure. A Monarch Butterfly! As I approached the delicate creature, I thought it would fly away but it never did. It stood there, on the sand, until I finally picked it up and held it in the palm of my hand.
Monarch butterflies are unable to fly, or even walk at temperatures below 55 degrees. Its fascinating that such sensitive creatures are able to migrate over 3,000 miles to their over wintering site in Mexico each year. It is not an easy journey considering all the adversity Monarchs face, but this migration is essential to the survival of the species. Monarchs must make it through the winter so that they can lay eggs for a subsequent generation during their northern migration come spring.
They fly south to Mexico in the late summer and early fall months. You can see roosts of them in Cape May each year, as the Jersey shore is along their migration path. They arrive in Mexico in November and stay till about March.
In order to help Monarchs along their migration path, the Cherry Hill Environmental Board has been establishing pollinating gardens throughout town. Our pollinator garden at Cherry Valley Trails has important nectar sources that aid in the survival of monarchs and milkweed for its caterpillars. This garden has been designated as a Monarch Waystation, a place that provides resources necessary for monarchs to produce successive generations and sustain their migration.
Milkweed is one of the most important plants to a Monarch's survival. Adult Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feeds on the milkweed to get the nutrients they need to grow into the caterpillars that will eventually transform into beautiful monarch butterflies.
Cherry Hill residents can do their part in helping Monarch butterfly populations. When planning your home gardens this spring make sure to plant native food sources for butterflies. New England Aster, Marigold, New York Ironweed, Zinnia, and Coneflowers are all great nectar sources for monarch butterflies. And don't forget to plant milkweed! Happy planting!
Article and photos by Jackie Neiman,
Cherry Hill Environmental Board