Every Adirondack Monarch is important. The last generation of Monarchs born here late each summer are members of a "super generation" which lives nine months, far longer than earlier generations whose life span is usually about four to six weeks. The tiny, fragile creatures you see here will complete an incredible migration of up to 5,000 miles. This migration is threatened.
Unless we take action, our grandchildren may never see a monarch in the Adirondacks.
AdkAction has launched a program to protect milkweed, the native perennial wildflower essential to Monarch reproduction, and to expand late-blooming native flowers to feed Monarchs as they begin their incredible journey.
The Monarch population is measured by the total number of hectares occupied by the species in their over-wintering sites in Mexico. The chart below shows that for the 2016-2017 winter, 2.91 ha were occupied by Monarchs.
PLANTING MILKWEED SEEDS
The easiest method for planting the packet of milkweed seeds you receive inside a Monarch brochure from AdkAction.org is also likely to be the most successful.
In late summer or fall simply use a tool or your thumb to make a one-inch or so indent in the soil, put a seed or two in each spot prepared this way and cover lightly. Then let Mother Nature do her work.
Milkweed seeds need vernalization and scarification -- going through a very cold spell for at least 3 - 6 weeks and rubbing against rock and sand to break their seed coats. In the Adirondacks and most northern areas where common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) grows, nature does the best job of preparing the seeds for the next season.
A septic field is one great place to plant milkweed. You can mow the septic field after the seed pods burst in late fall. After you get a good stand of milkweed you can harvest some of the pods and plant them in a new location, perhaps along a fence line or in a fallow field.
You can also start milkweed seeds indoors, although it is a more time-consuming process. Click here for more detailed instructions.
THE MONARCH STORY
Monarch butterflies only lay their eggs on milkweed leaves and their caterpillars eat only milkweed. (There are more than 100 types of milkweed. The variety native to the Adirondacks is common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca. More than 90% of all Monarch eggs are laid on common milkweed.) About two weeks after a female butterfly deposits her egg on the under side of a milkweed leaf, the caterpillar which hatched from it forms a chrysalis on nearby plant material, and about twelve days later a new butterfly emerges. In the fall Monarchs hatched in our Adirondacks and elsewhere in the northeastern US and Canada are programmed to live up to 9 months, and to make an epic journey beginning here. They stop to rest and drink nectar to fuel their flight, lucky if they find a butterfly garden. Millions of Monarchs survive the 2,000-mile flight to Mexico where they winter in fir forests in a high-altitude mountain area.
In March they mate and fly to the southeast US. They stop, lay eggs on milkweed and die. A new generation is born and continues north, always seeking fresh milkweed. Each of these north-bound generations lives six to eight weeks. It takes three to four generations for Monarchs to reach their home in the Adirondacks & Canada. The last generation born in the north is called the migrating generation because it lives much longer, making the entire trip in the fall to Mexico, wintering there, and flying back to the US coast. Adirondack lakes and streams are on the Monarch's migratory flyways to and from Mexico.
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