America’s most recognizable butterfly — the monarch — is poised to make its long southern migration to Mexico, and many of the beautiful orange, black, and white monarchs should be visible flying across Missouri as fall approaches.
While our remaining prairies and other open habitats provide both food sources for the caterpillar larvae and nectar sources for the adults, loss of habitat in the United States and in monarch wintering grounds in Mexico is a threat to this beloved insect.
The caterpillars feed exclusively on plants in the milkweed family, while the adults feed on nectar from a variety of flowers — including many asters, goldenrods, and blazing stars blooming in late summer and into fall.
Visit a prairie, such as those owned by the Missouri Prairie Foundation, and you will enjoy a multicolored tapestry of wildflowers visited by monarchs, as many as 500 different species of insect pollinators, and other floral visitors.
Visit MoPrairie.org for maps and directions to Missouri Prairie Foundation prairies, which are open to all to visit.
At home, as well, you can enjoy monarchs by planting milkweeds and other native plants, and if your neighbors do as well, you will be part of a vital monarch food corridor, helping monarchs to survive. For information on where to buy native plants, visit the Buyer’s Guide at GrowNative.org.
And, cap off your summer monarch experience by attending the Missouri Prairie Foundation’s annual dinner on Sept. 7 in St. Louis, featuring Dr. Chip Taylor, founder of Monarch Watch. Details are available at MoPrairie.org.
Written by Carol Davit, executive director of the Missouri Prairie Foundation.