Monarch Marvels: Navigating the Skies and Seasons with Illinois Butterflies

Monarch Marvels: Navigating the Skies and Seasons with Illinois Butterflies

Monarch butterflies are out and about! As we step into the late summer season and journey through the fall months, we see more monarchs gracing the Illinois skies. In contrast to those that we saw during the spring and early summer that only live for 2-5 weeks, these late summer monarchs are long-lived with a remarkable adult lifespan of 25-35 weeks. The reason behind this longevity is that this generation of monarch butterflies will be making the annual migration to Mexico, where they will roost in the mountains to weather the winter months.

Guided by flight speeds of up to 12 mph, these migrating monarchs will also harness the power of air currents and thermals that help them conserve energy for the arduous 2,000+ mile journey ahead. Nectar from flowers are essential to fuel them along their flight path as they navigate the expanse.

Become stewards of monarch butterflies by adorning your landscape with Illinois native flowers, which provide them with a wellspring of nectar! Flowers include Rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium), Grass-leaved goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia), Rough blazing star (Liatris aspera), and New England aster (Symphiotrichum novae-angliae). Delve into our Monarch favorites plant list to find plants that suit your site.

To support the monarchs’ lifecycle during the spring and summer months, plant milkweeds–the sole host plants for these majestic butterflies. We provide several Illinois native species including Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tubulosa), Whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata), and Rose milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). 

Planting now during late summer and throughout the fall presents several advantages. Cooler temperatures create an ideal environment for robust root growth, accompanied by reduced transpiration rates, thereby minimizing water stress. This stands in contrast to the challenges posed by extreme summer heat and the potential for drought conditions. Moreover, fall and spring precipitation coupled with snow melt, allows for naturally watering your new transplants. Although some supplementary watering in the following year is advisable, established plants will no longer require constant care by the second full growing season.

Stay tuned for our upcoming blog post on planting Illinois native trees and shrubs during the fall season.

 Genevieve Nano

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