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CINDY DAY: Monarch butterfly migration is underway

Milkweed was planted at White Point in Nova Scotia so that caterpillars could develop and form chrysalis and emerge as Monarch butterflies. -Cindy Day
Milkweed was planted at White Point in Nova Scotia so that caterpillars could develop and form chrysalis and emerge as Monarch butterflies. -Contributed

For about 2 weeks now, I’ve been getting lots of lovely photos of monarch butterflies - for a while, there were very few monarchs around. The numbers were rapidly declining but we seem to have turned the corner. 

Last week, this email came from Barb Martell of Halifax: “I thought I would send you photos I took last week at White Point NS. It was an absolutely beautifully morning and while my friend and I were taking in the surf and the surroundings we came across a few people from the Resort looking at some flowers. As we approached, the staff pointed out the milkweed they planted this year so that caterpillars could develop and form chrysalis and emerge as Monarch butterflies. And, all of those stages were taking place right there in the garden!”

What a special event and I’m so glad that Barb included some photos.

Monarchs truly are a marvel.  Each fall monarchs set out on an incredible 5,000 km journey to their wintering sites in the mountain forests of Mexico, where they cluster together from late October through March. It’s one of the world’s longest insect migrations.

Barb Martell captured this lovely Monarch resting in the garden at White Point N.S. -Contributed
Barb Martell captured this lovely Monarch resting in the garden at White Point N.S. -Contributed

In the spring, the monarchs begin the journey north. Female monarchs stop to lay their eggs on milkweed plants. The caterpillars eat the leaves, eventually transforming into butterflies that continue northward. Two to three generations after leaving Mexico, the monarchs begin to arrive in southern Canada.

The often maligned milkweed plant is crucial to the monarch’s survival; in their caterpillar stage, it is their only source of food.  Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed plants so the caterpillar can begin to feed right away. As adults, they sip nectar from a variety of native flowers.

As you clean out some of the flower beds in your yard and start making plans for the new beds next spring, why not plant some of the monarch’s favourite plants: echinacea, black-eyed susan, sage, zinnias and dahlias.

Sit back and enjoy one of the world’s most beautiful butterflies.

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