Monarchs in the Garden

Susan MacPhee explains the importance of butterfly conservation

Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash
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Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership. The series is coordinated by ACES, the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

Monarch butterflies only lay their eggs on milkweed. It is the only plant the monarch caterpillar can eat. As open fields are lost to development, homeowners using pesticides, and their cool winter forests are warming, the monarch population is losing their areas to land and reproduce.

You can help this magnificent insect, as well as other native pollinators, by planting native milkweeds and fall nectars such as goldenrods and asters and stop using pesticides on your property including plant-based mosquito sprays.

Along with fall nectars, types of local milkweeds you can plant are swamp milkweed, butterfly weed, whorled milkweed, and poke milkweed and the best time to plant milkweed seeds is after foraging wild critters hibernate in late November.

Every fall, monarchs that emerge from chrysalises in the northern United States. and southern Canada migrate all the way to their wintering grounds in the cool mountain forests of central Mexico. The following spring, they begin their journey north where four generations breed and die along the way before the southern migration begins again. It’s up to us to help provide shelter and nutrients for this long journey to Mexico.

Kattie Banks Hone, known as the “Monarch Gardener” in Ipswich spoke recently about monarch butterflies at the Newburyport Senior Center. The presentation offered insight into the Monarch’s natural history, migration, the reason for its decline and the many conservation efforts that are currently underway along its migration pathway.

Recently classified as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, homeowners are perfectly positioned to help them.

Katie listed an entire season of blooms that you can plant in your own yard to help monarchs and other pollinators and can be found at under Nursery Info.

An effort worked on over the summer by ACES Ally “Pollinator PowerWorks” was noteworthy as Ellie Volkhausen notes: “we’re proud to report that PPW planted 10 gardens with more on waiting list for next year”

Greater Newburyport has recently become a hot spot for bee, butterfly and hummingbird conservation with pollinator gardens popping up around the region and more people keeping bees too. and the city is teaming with ACES “Pollinator PowerWorks” to plant some of its conservation lands especially for pollinators like the Monarch butterfly.

You, too, can become part of the butterfly conservation movement too. Plan your own pollinator garden with appropriate fall planting of native perennials and subscribe to ACES’ newsletter to stay in touch with local environmental and climate news.

Colby Farm meadow seeking help to plant milkweeds and other pollinators.

If you want to help with the Pollinator Field on Colby Farm Lane, we need volunteers. Contact us at to sign up.

This column was coordinated by ACES YOUTH CORPS member Ana Satir. To share any comments or questions, please send an email to To learn more about ACES and the Youth Leadership Initiative, view the website –

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about the author
Susan MacPhee

Susan is an ACES advisor, web designer of and drives her family and friends nuts with her devotion to recycling, composting, and saving the earth. With ACES, she finally found her voice.

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