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March 16, 2013

Butterfly program focuses on saving monarchs

(Continued)

Gregoire said butterflies have little “trunks” that they unroll to gather nectar inside flowers. 

GROWING MILKWEED

It’s also important to choose flowers that will flourish throughout the summer season.

“This way, you will have nectar for your butterflies from the beginning of summer to the end of October,” Gregoire said.

The next step is planting milkweed. This is for the younger monarch caterpillar.

“The monarch caterpillar will only feed on milkweed, nothing else,” she said.

Any milkweed species — tropical or natural-growing — is adequate.

“You won’t have to worry about it eating your other plants,” Gregoire said.

One other tip: No pesticides. Let Mother Nature take her course, Gregoire advised.

“A milkweed garden doesn’t take a lot of maintenance. There’s a natural balance, an equilibrium, that settles in where the natural predators will eat each other.”

If you don’t have a lot of space, a container works fine. Just make sure there’s one for nectar-style plants and one for the milkweed.

Many people have milkweed around their garden and don’t even know it, Gregoire said.

“It’s the plant that when you break the stem or the leaves, there’s a white liquid inside.”

The liquid is called latex, and it’s packed with chemical molecules.

“So it’s toxic for a lot of insects, but the monarch caterpillar resists those chemical molecules and accumulates them in its body,” she said.

The caterpillar, itself, will become toxic to other predators.

“And that will protect it,” she said.

The monarch’s bright colors and the caterpillar’s yellow and black stripes signify its toxicity.

“And that’s the warning that says: ‘I’m toxic. Don’t eat me,’” Gregoire said.

Ideally, a milkweed garden should be placed in a low-traffic, non-windy area.

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