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Old 03-02-2010, 04:40 AM   #1
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Default Placement of milkweed and other host plants?

Now that spring is close I'd like to try to correct some mistakes I might have made in where I placed the milkweed in the garden.
I've been trying to attract monarchs to my garden and now have 3 types of milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, A. tuberosa, and A. purpurascens for a total of 8 plants ( I'll add 2 more A. purpurascens and a few more A.tuberosa this year).
I did for the first time find cats on plants last year but so did the birds. I think all were eaten.
Short of taking the cats inside to raise is there anything I can do?
My main concern is that I've placed the plants in such open positions
the cats are easy pickins.

I was planning to add more A. tuberosa ( you can see one at the bottom right of the grouping at the left of the arch in the 1st photo) along the open street side of the strip between the street and sidewalk since it is dry and sunny there. I'd like to continue adding more A. tuberosa all along the streetside of the second photo among the moss phlox,Phlox subulata. They grow well there but it's very open.

In the third photo I'd like to remove most of the non native grape hyacinth and replace it with blue eyed grass and either more A. tuberosa or Ziza aptera. I already have 3 of the zizas in that area.
Am I trying to add too many host plants in a small area? Can a small area be host to many different butterflies?
What do you think ?
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Placement of milkweed and other host plants?-img_0245.jpg   Placement of milkweed and other host plants?-img_0246.jpg   Placement of milkweed and other host plants?-img_0368.jpg  
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Old 03-02-2010, 11:14 AM   #2
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Nice pictures will.
A small area should be fine for several different host plants. There is no territorial thing going on with butterflies,they just lay eggs and abandon.
Butterflies respond to several plants placed together more quickly than just one of each as that helps ensure enough food and probably easier spotted in urban areas where only one garden is sporting host plants.
Being very visible is necessary but the more plants the more likely some cats will survive. They have ways to protect and/or camouflage that aids survival.
Bringing them in to raise will ensure more survival but I prefer multiple plants and survival of the fittest rules.
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Old 03-02-2010, 11:21 AM   #3
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BTW, that aster is host plant to the pearl crescent.There should be plenty of hiding spaces in that abundance.
Pearl Crescent


And the panicum is a host as well. A habitat garden is one big all you can eat buffet.

http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=pavi2

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Delaware Skipper.
The Grass Family is an essential larval host
for most banded skippers and most of the satyrs
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Old 03-02-2010, 12:43 PM   #4
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Wow! Nice setup.

More milkweed plants should definitely improve the odds for the butterflies. Groupings are nice because butterfly vision is not all that great, but it's not essential.

A little cutting back on a few of the plants should also help attract the females to lay eggs. They really prefer tender new growth when looking for a place to lay their eggs. I once lost most of a flat of milkweed seedlings because every monarch around just had to lay her eggs on my seedlings. Milkweeds all over the yard, but those just weren't good enough.

I don't know if it would workable for your situation, but a physical barrier could be used to discourage the birds. It wouldn't take much. Perhaps a tomato cage or some similar framework to which you attach some sort of fencing. I'm thinking about something like one of the green painted chicken wire fences. Easy to shape and the green color pretty much blends it in with the background. There are probably other green painted fencing types that might be better. It wouldn't be necessary to do a large area. Just a few selected plants with caterpillars on them.

It's also possible that you are really not losing as many caterpillars as you think. Caterpillars do move around a lot. They may just be moving to other milkweed plants. If you are seeing new flushes of fresh monarchs every 4 - 6 weeks, they are probably doing OK.
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Old 03-02-2010, 03:18 PM   #5
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I have read that about 1% of monarch eggs end up as healthy adult butterflies. Eggs are taken by ants and other insects that crawl on milkweed plants. Caterpillars are taken by certain bees and wasps, as well as birds. There are also disease issues, including virus, bacteria, and mold. When monarch eggs are collected, kept in a safe place, and the caterpillars are hand reared to adulthood, you might see 50% or even 90% success rate. Last season, I hand reared 10 monarchs, but other people hand rear over 100 in a typical year. Good luck with your garden. We might not see too many monarchs in the USA this June, because the population at the overwinter sites in central Mexico is down.
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Old 03-04-2010, 03:27 AM   #6
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Thanks everyone for the information and encouragement.
Hopefully this will be a better year for Monarchs weatherwise.

1% is such a small percentage erictjohnson, to make it to a butterfly.

I noticed the last few cats I found on the butterfly weed were eating the seed pods Cirsium, which leads me to think they want to eat both young fresh leaves and mature plants that have formed pods. How often and much and when do you suggest cutting back A. tuberosa? What about A.incarnata, do you cut that back also?
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Old 03-04-2010, 11:06 AM   #7
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Quote:
I noticed the last few cats I found on the butterfly weed were eating the seed pods Cirsium, which leads me to think they want to eat both young fresh leaves and mature plants that have formed pods.
Yes, on mature plants forming seed pods they would probably be the tenderest new growth.

Unfortunately I can't give you any good advice on cutting back the plants. My cutting back is rather haphazard and unorganized. It's a kind of a spur of the moment thing. I'll be walking among the plants and notice that all the plants are in the same growth stage, and then I'll do some snipping. I have read that cutting back A. tuberosa right after it's done flowering will cause it to go into another flowering cycle, but I haven't actually tried it. Hopefully someone will be able to chime in that cuts back milkweeds on a more organized basis.
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Old 03-04-2010, 04:29 PM   #8
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I cut back our milkweed during the growing season, to obtain fresh stalks with several leaves, so that I can set up a monarch caterpillar with a food supply that will last a day or two. If the milkweed is well established, with a root system that is at least two years old, the plant will recover from being cut back, and it will produce new growth. I see A. tuberosa blooming into September every year, all on its own, no human intervention required. These late season blooms are small in number, compared to June.
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Old 05-02-2010, 08:18 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by will-o-wisp View Post
Thanks everyone for the information and encouragement.
Hopefully this will be a better year for Monarchs weatherwise.

1% is such a small percentage erictjohnson, to make it to a butterfly.

I noticed the last few cats I found on the butterfly weed were eating the seed pods Cirsium, which leads me to think they want to eat both young fresh leaves and mature plants that have formed pods. How often and much and when do you suggest cutting back A. tuberosa? What about A.incarnata, do you cut that back also?
Hi there,
I cut back more than half of my syriaca in early July and had plenty of fresh growth for late summer monarchs. I did cut back the incarnata, but only because I needed all of it to feed caterpillars! It grew back, but much slower than the syriaca. I don't cut back tuberosa.
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