Monarchs, Milkweed, and Me

IMGP6507By S. J. Brown

Saturday morning I will be hosting a group of fellow gardeners on our back deck. We will be talking about Monarch Butterflies.  I began tagging Monarchs three or four year ago and have learned a lot about them since.  So I will be sharing some of my wisdom along with some milkweed seeds.

1 Milkweed

Milkweed is essential for the survival of Monarch Butterflies since they will only lay their eggs on milkweed plants.   When the caterpillars emerge they gorge themselves on the poisonous milkweed which makes them taste bad to predators like birds and wasps.

2 Monarch




My latest addition to our yard is a butterfly garden. Butterflies are attracted to red, yellow, orange, pink and purple flowers so I made sure to include all of these colors in my garden. It has enticed a variety of butterflies to visit, but no Monarchs yet.  They should be arriving in our area soon.  I am hoping at least one will make an appearance for our little group.

3 Monarch




Monarch Butterflies aren’t just pretty they are pollinators, and also an indicator species. Scientist use indicator species to judge the health of our environment. Unfortunately Monarch butterfly numbers are declining. While Mother Nature does play a role in regulating the number of any one species mankind also plays a role. The destruction of habitat for development and the practice of mowing down milkweed and other beneficial plants has impacted Monarch numbers greatly.

4 Monarch




However with help from home gardeners and groups like Monarch watch I am confident that Monarch numbers will increase. Tagging Monarchs helps keep track of their numbers from year to year. The tags are a little round sticker with reference numbers on them. They aren’t much larger than the tip of a pencil eraser. The tag is placed on the base of the Monarchs hind wing. Before the butterfly is released the date, location, and sex of the Monarch is recorded. This information is added to the information collected throughout the country and sent to Monarch Watch where the numbers are tallied.

5 Tag




Monarch Butterflies are only in my area for a short time so I try to get as many photographs as I can. However photographing butterflies is not that easy. They flutter from one bloom to another and often prefer the top of my butterfly bush. But experience has taught me to be patient, they will often return to the same plant after a few minutes. So I no longer chase them around the yard instead I sit and wait for them to return.  While I wait I capture images of the other visitors to my garden.

6 Butterfly




Thanks for stopping by I hope you learned a little about Monarch Butterflies and enjoyed the photos.

7 Hummingbird moth




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22 thoughts on “Monarchs, Milkweed, and Me

  1. I’ve always loved the look of butterflies and like you say Monarchs are stunning. Thank you for the information. Hope all went well on Saturday and a Monarch showed up. Doris


  2. I used to see a lot more butterflies in my garden ( sadly no beautiful monarchs) but either I now don’t notice them, or it’s my eyesight that’s failing (could be), or I’m not growing the correct summer flowers. I think that last one is the most likely. I’m still having bees visiting, and wasps, so there is pollination happening.
    Fine photos, S J. 🙂
    ps I tried to photo the magpies again earlier today, but the minute I opened my front door they flew off in a flurry!


    1. Some critters just know when you have a camera and don’t want their picture taken. There does seem to be fewer butterflies this year. To entice the ones that are around make sure you have lots of color.


  3. Wow… that is absolutely impressive, not only very visual, but also very educational. Sounds like quite a job. Me, personally I have a hard time harming creatures unless they can become a crazy pest such as flies, mosquitos, and such. Here in Wyoming they have something like this in Sink Canyon State Park, near here in Lander. I’ve been curious to what it is they do, I’m thinking of experiencing these Monarch Butterflies, or whatever kind of butterflies there are. Thanks for making me think of this!


  4. Thanks, each year I discover new places to search for Monarchs hoping to use all my tags. Sadly I generally only use about half. But everyone that gets counted is important.


  5. Wonderful post, S.J.! I love Monarchs, and growing up in Iowa back in the 1960s and 1970s, I experienced many on our small farm. I’m seeing more milkweed here in Wyoming, and I’ve seen one or two Monarchs. Other types of butterflies frequent our area, including small brown and yellows (have no idea what they are called) and the bright yellow and black swallowtails. I hope you have a great day Saturday!


    1. That’s great news that you are seeing more milkweed. Butterfly populations overall seem to be down this year, but I am sure the weather is a contributing factor. Glad you enjoyed the post.


  6. Love monarchs. My daughter photographed a time released video of a monarch caterpillar going into cocoon and then emerging. It was so interesting. Our hospice has a kids camp that releases about 40 monarchs at the end of it. An Indian legend says you can whisper a message to a loved one who has passed on and the buttefrly will take it to them. Have fun.


  7. Very interesting post. As always, I especially love your beautiful photography. We planted a butterfly garden this summer and along with our birds and other wildlife we are enjoying watching the butterflies flit from flower to flower. When I was a youngster I belonged to a 4-H Entomology Club. I remember thinking how beautiful the Monarchs were and how much I hated to give them ether so they’d die and could be mounted. I’d much rather enjoy them in the wild!


  8. Wow, I had no idea you could tag butterflies. That’s awesome. There was a time I remembered butterflies and bees everywhere. Now it’s more rare than it should be. I think beyond lack of land, pesticides and other chemicals have become stronger and are having long term effects.


  9. Butterfly numbers do seem to be down. However there are more and more gardeners that are making them feel welcome and giving them a place to lay eggs. People have caused this problem and I think they are the key to fixing it. So me and a lot of other people are working on it.


  10. I truly love butterflies. They seem down in my neck of the woods as well. I hope that’s a yearly aberration and not a harbinger of things to come.


    1. I think the butterflies were off to a slow start this year. The last few weeks I have seen a big variety of butterflies. This week alone I have tagged more Monarchs than I did the entire tagging season last year.


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