The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is one of the most commonly recognized hummingbirds in North America, especially in the eastern half of the country where they spend their summers. They are the only hummingbird to breed east of the Great Plains. Commonly found in open woods, forest edges, parks, gardens and yards, their familiar green and red plumage make them easy to identify.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are 3-3.75 inches in length and weigh around 10-13 ounces with a life span of about 4-6 years. These speedy little birds flap their wings 53 times per second, can hover in mid-air and fly upside down and backward. The males have a striking bright red or red-orange iridescent throat. The males’ upperparts and head are bright green. The female’s underparts are plain white and upperparts green, but they lack the brilliant red throat of the male.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds feed mostly on nectar and insects. They are strongly attracted to red and orange flowers, like those of trumpet vine, red columbine, bee balm, scarlet sage and many Penstemon varieties. They happily feed from nectar feeders too.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are solitary birds that only come together to mate. The female builds her cup-shaped nest about 10-20 feet above ground in a well-camouflaged area of a shrub or tree. Here she will commonly produce 1-2 broods of 2 white eggs per year. The incubation period is 10-16 days. The female, alone, will care for the young for 2-3 weeks before they are mature enough to leave the nest.
In early fall, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird will begin its migration to Mexico & Central America crossing over 500 miles of water in their nonstop journey across the Gulf of Mexico. They can become a little more aggressive near food sources in late summer as they begin preparing for the journey.
To attract more of these lovely birds to your yard keep a clean and full nectar feeder, plant more nectar-rich flowers in their favorite colors of orange and red, limit insecticide use and provide a water source such as a mister or shallow fountain for these birds to bathe and preen in.
One of my favorite plants began blooming this week, Lacy phacelia, Phacelia tanacetifolia, so I wanted to take a moment to tell you all about Lacy Phacelia. It has many common names including lacy scorpionweed, tansy leaf phacelia, blue tansy, purple tansy and my favorite, bee’s friend. Clusters of light blue-violet flowers that unfurl in a fiddlehead shape sit atop attractive fern-like foliage. Reaching heights of 1-3 feet and blooming for 6-8 weeks this fast-growing wildflower is an excellent addition to any garden. It also makes an excellent cut flower.
Native to the southwestern United States, this easy to grow annual does well in hot, dry conditions but easily adapts to a variety of site conditions. Lacy phacelia seeds germinate readily in 15-30 days. Sow seeds early in the spring while there is still a possibility of frost. Ideal soil temperatures for best germination are between 37-68 degrees F. Press seeds gently into the soil at a depth of ⅛-¼”.
It’s not only the lovely blue-violet flowers that make lacy phacelia one of my favorite plants. Lacy Phacelia is well known for its ability to attract bees and butterflies to an area. It is a heavy nectar producer and is listed in the top 20 pollen-producing flowers for honeybees. Having this source of high-quality nectar and pollen means you’ll be attracting many native bees, bumblebees, honey bees and butterflies to your garden. I have these flowers growing near my front porch and just this week I counted 4 different varieties of bees on the few flowers that just started blooming.
Trying growing lacy phacelia near your vegetable garden to increase your yields.
Lacy phacelia also does well in containers. These containers can then be moved to different areas of the garden that need pollination. The benefits of Lacy phacelia as a cover crop are becoming more popular. It is widely used in Europe as it aggressively outcompetes weeds and absorbs excess nitrates and calcium from the soil. But it’s most important contribution is its pollinator-attracting power.
Lacy phacelia readily self sows so removing flower heads before they set seed helps limit any unwanted volunteers. Though when you see these beautiful flowers and how many pollinators they attract to the garden you might want to let a few of these wildflowers go to seed.
Monarch Butterflies are amazing North American animals! Their iconic, colorful wings are actually warnings for potential predators. Those spots and strips are big caution signs saying: STOP; I TASTE BAD!
Every year, the Monarchs embark on one of nature’s most astonishing mass migrations. This incredible journey takes four generations and covers over 3000 miles through the United States, Mexico and Canada.
Monarch mothers will only lay their eggs on milkweed plants (genus Asclepias) and, once hatched, their caterpillars exclusively live on and eat the leaves of those same plants. They cannot survive without them.
The problem is that milkweed has gotten a bad rap over the years. Allergies and perceptions of the wildflower as a weed have caused it to be wiped out throughout large portions of North America. The prevalence of pesticides has not helped and the loss of milkweed, wildflowers, and other floral resources has devastated the monarch butterfly’s population.
It’s not without hope, though! Everyone can do their part to help. The most important thing you can do is to plant more milkweed on your property and in your community. This guide to purchasing milkweed seed will help you figure out which species of milkweed is best for you, and you can help Monarch Butterflies!
Oh, and while you’re at it, check out our Monarch Rescue Wildflower Mix. It has Butterfly Milkweed and a mix of other wildflower seeds to provide a nectar-rich place for Monarch Butterflies to fuel up and raise their young! Find it here!
The Common Milkweed is a hardy perennial with fragrant, terminal blossoms made up of tiny dusty-pink blossoms on hairy stems. This milkweed is found throughout the Great Plains and is tough enough to tolerate most soil conditions. It does well in soils that are clay, sandy or rocky calcareous (high in calcium carbonate). These conditions occur naturally along stream banks, ponds, lakes, forest margins, and roadsides. Common Milkweed grows 2′ – 6′ tall and like areas with full sun. They bloom from June through September and will germinate between 65° and 85° F.
This milkweed is also a favorite of other butterflies, native bees and hummingbirds. The seeds will grow easily and do well when planted in the fall or when cold-treated for three months prior to planting. Common Milkweed will spread both through seed normal distribution and as well as through underground shoots. Common milkweed spread readily and may need to be controlled. Common milkweed is particularly good for wetland rehabilitation and as a component in wildlife seed mixtures.
Similar to the Common Milkweed, this hardy perennial is a favorite of butterflies. This species has traditionally provided food, medicine and fiber to indigenous peoples. The clusters of star-shaped flowers will range from dark-rose to white. The plant has tall woody stems with milky sap and with alternate, oval leaves that are velvety underneath. Showy Milkweed grows 24” – 36” tall and like areas with full sun. They bloom from May through July and will germinate between 65° and 85° F.
These plants grow well in a variety of locations from prairies and open woodlands to roadsides. The seeds are very easy to grow and do well when planted in the fall or when cold-treated for three months prior to planting. Showy Milkweed will spread through seed distribution and underground shoots
Also known as Butterflyweed, this hardy perennial. Unlike their cousins, this species lacks the milky sap that gives milkweed their namesake. The clusters of flowers will range from dark orange to white on tall woody stems with smooth shiny leaves that are velvety underneath. The blooms begin in May and will last through July. These plants will grow between 12”-24” and perform well in a variety of locations; from prairies and open woodlands to roadsides.
Butterfly Milkweed is only pollinated by large insects. This trait is common among fall wildflowers, many of which depend on specific pollinators to survive. Butterfly Milkweed pollen is contained in a heavy, sticky structure called pollinium. Since these pollinium structures are so large and sticky, only larger insect pollinators can fly with them. There are several nectaries per flower and multiple flowers per bloom, which makes these flowers great pollen and nectar resources
The seeds will grow well when planted in the fall or when cold-treated for three months prior to planting in the Spring. Butterfly Milkweed will spread through seed distribution and underground shoots.
The Swamp Milkweed is widely distributed across the U.S. and Canada; from Quebec and Maine south to Florida and Texas and west to Nevada and Idaho. This species prefers neutral to slightly acidic soil, although it will tolerate a pH up to 8.0. It has high moisture requirements, and it is usually found in wet habitats such as meadows, riverbanks, pond shores, stream banks, wet woods, swamps, and marshes, although it will also grow in drier areas such as prairies, fields, and roadsides. Swamp milkweed needs full sun or partial shade to flourish.
The plant grows into a two=foot tall perennial with fragrant, terminal blossoms made up of tiny rosy-purple blossoms. This milkweed prefers average to very moist soils, will tolerate heavy clay soils and is easy to start from seed and deer resistant. Like most milkweed, Swamp Milkweed seeds are easy to grow and do well when planted in the fall or when cold-treated for three months prior to planting. Swamp Milkweed will spread through seed distribution and underground shoots.
Like the Common Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed is great for wetland rehabilitation and as a component in wildlife seed mixtures.
Bloodflower Milkweed, also known as Tropical Milkweed, is winter hardy in zones 9-11 and is easily grown from seed each year as an annual. It is great for attracting hummingbirds, butterflies and a wide variety of pollinators. Showy red-orange flowers with yellow hoods in rounded clusters grow on upright stems with medium-green, glossy, pointed leaves. Attractive foliage and flowers for beds, borders, cottage gardens, meadows and butterfly gardens. It is also a good cut flower. Dried seed pods are attractive in arrangements. Monarch Butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves and the larvae feed on the plants. Plant in rich, well-drained soil. These have a longer blooming period than most other milkweeds, ranging from June through October.
This milkweed is not native to North America and can potentially be invasive in warmer climates. If you’re one of our Southern friends, monitor your plantings and keep out of wild lands and ranches and cut the foliage to the ground in the winter to avoid luring Monarchs away from their migratory paths.
*Note that all milkweed contains cardiac glycosides, chemicals that are toxic when eaten. These chemicals, in turn, make the Monarch Butterflies toxic to any would-be predators. Avoid letting livestock and small children eat milkweed and wash any skin that comes in contact with the sap to avoid irritation.
This is the time of year when sources of honey and pollen are abundant and you can see the bees busily working in your flowerbeds.
It’s fun just to stand to the side and watch a beehive at this time of year as the bees fly in with full pollen bags and others leave to forage. The bees are not very defensive at this time of year but after the solstice, they start being more protective of honey stores. It’s an easy time for the colony and the beekeeper to enjoy the break from worrying about the colony having enough to eat. Inspections still must continue for the honeybee health, to be sure that everything is going well with the colony.
The first thing the beekeeper checks for when opening to the colony is the presence of eggs, larvae, newly born bees (these are called nurse bees and their first task is to foster newly hatching bees), stores of pollen and honey and room for the Queen to lay more eggs. If there is no room there are several options, including splitting the hive and leaving the Queen in one hive while allowing the new colony to raise another queen or installing a new queen. Another option is to shift frames around a bit so that there are some empty frames closer to the brood nest. The beekeeper also checks the “pattern”, or density of the capped brood. A good queen will lay in a dense pattern with very few empty cells. “Spotty brood” could indicate a problem varying from a young queen trying to get the hang of brood laying to an older queen in decline.
Another important task is to try and locate the queen. This can be tricky in large colonies of two deep boxes because the queen likes to run away and hide from the light into a deeper part of the colony. She can also be difficult to locate on a frame filled with hundreds of worker bees and drones. Here is a photo
https://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.png00Engrid Winslowhttps://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.pngEngrid Winslow2019-06-20 05:00:582021-03-17 18:29:06June Happenings in the Honeybee Hive
Pollinators are the magic ingredient that makes our natural world work. They fuel lifecycles of entire ecosystems and are found everywhere flowering plants are. Humans are also incredibly dependent on pollinators. Pollinators come in all shapes and sizes. Honeybees, native bees, bumblebees, butterflies, birds, bats, and other wild critters are all incredibly important pollinators!
Unfortunately, we are losing our pollinators at an alarming rate. Insect pollinators are being hit especially hard. Habitat loss, exposure to pesticides, lack of food, and diseases are all leading factors in the decline of these species. We should all be concerned. One-third of our food, from coffee to strawberries, are dependent on pollinators to produce. We need these animals just as much as they need us.
We take our favorite wildflower seeds and blend them into pollinator seed mixes specially formulated to help create habitat and forage for the pollinators in your backyard. We make sure to use fresh, high quality, open-pollinated, GMO-free seeds because you deserve to have a successful, healthy, and fun planting experience. Our mixes are all seed with none of the fillers that you might find in other mixes because we believe you should get what you’re paying for.
Monarch Butterflies are some of the most wonderful and strange animals on Earth. Every year, they migrate between the high mountains of Mexico through most of North America. This migration takes four separate generations of butterflies to complete and covers a massive amount of territory. To complete this migration, the Monarchs need plenty of forage and nesting sites along the way.
However, habitat and forage loss has been devastating for the Monarch Butterfly. Milkweed plants are the only plants that Monarch Butterflies will lay their eggs on. These plants have been wiped out of large portions of the United States due to concerns about allergies and their designation as a “weed”. Habitat loss and pesticide use have also reduced the amount of good forage for Monarchs, weakening them too much to complete their journey.
This is why we created our Monarch Rescue Wildflower Mix. This mix of Milkweeds and wildflowers is a Monarch Butterfly booster shot. This mix is full of nutrition and habitat for the butterflies passing through your area. Make your garden a Monarch paradise with this mix.
Bees have had a rough time of late. The incredible loss of honey bees in recent years has been well documented and reported on. However, the crisis is much deeper than just honey bees. North America has over 4,000 species of native bees. Most native bees are solitary and are extremely effective pollinators. However, these little bees are little understood and are in even more danger than honey bees because they don’t have beekeepers watching out for them!
This colorful combination of wildflowers will provide nectar and pollen for full season support of native and introduced bee species. Our “Bee Rescue” Wildflower mix has been designed to include the absolute best species to support the health and vitality for a wide range of native pollinators as well and the honey bee. This is one of our best selling pollinator seed mixes! These are the flowers that attract the most pollinators and will do well over the most growing zones.
Bumblebee Bonanza Mix is a colorful mix that includes specially selected species of nectar and pollen-rich, annual and perennial flowers that are known to attract bumblebees and other pollinators and will provide quality forage from early spring until late fall.
This mixture of annuals and perennials is designed to provide early, mid and late season blooms to support the life cycle of the bumblebee as well as other pollinators. These flower species will do well in a variety of growing conditions and are recommended for a maintained, home-garden planting or commercial landscape. The best time for planting this mix is in the early spring, early summer and late fall.
This mix has been created with the vibrantly colored, nectar-rich species that hummingbirds love. Consisting of mostly perennials, this mix will continue to provide support to hummingbirds and other important pollinators. A few annuals are included to provide color the first year while the perennials become established and will bloom the second year.
A long blooming mix of beautiful, nectar and pollen-rich annuals and perennials put together just for our Honey Bee friends. Plant this mix to provide vital nutrition for the European Honey Bees. These hard-working pollinators are necessary for our agricultural production and are a major contributor to our food supply. Lack of native nectar and pollen sources between crop rotations can cause stress and starvation that contribute to colony collapse.
At BBB Seed, we are deeply committed to providing the highest quality grass, wildflower, and grass seeds to empower our customers to get out and grow! This list of our 5 most popular pollinator seed mixes is intended to be a useful resource for you to see what products our customers and we are enjoying right now!
We also are incredibly concerned about providing sustainable and environmentally conscious products to you. We source seeds that are non-genetically engineered, tested, and grown sustainably. We hope these products will help you enjoy nature and learn about this wonderful world in the garden. We strongly encourage you to visit our Pollinator Action Page or The Bee Conservancy to learn about the pollinators that make our natural world possible and learn more about what you can do to help them. Thank you!
Grow. Enjoy. Share…the beauty and the bounty!
https://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Kelly_Clyne.jpg8721000Sam Dollhttps://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.pngSam Doll2019-04-30 16:26:132021-03-17 18:40:12Our 5 Most Popular Pollinator Seed Mixes
Honey bees are not native to the United States but were imported in the 1600s by colonists from Europe. Already here when honey bees arrived were 50 species of bumblebees and over 4,400 species of native bees. Bumblebees are especially efficient at buzz pollination. (Check out this blog for more information on bumblebees: www.bbbseed.com/its-bumblebee-bonanza-time). Native bees specialize in pollinating native species of plants – including food – while honey bees are best described as generalists. . Native bees do not have pollen bags on their legs but are often covered with a lot of bushy hairs on their bodies which gather and distribute pollen in the most excellent way. Also, native bees (bumblebees are the exception) live only about 6 weeks and their lives coincide with the bloom time of certain plants that they are specialists in pollinating. They are extremely docile and non-aggressive with some of them having a stinger that doesn’t even penetrate the skin. Their sting also contains a different type of toxin which will not cause anaphylaxis in people who are allergic to honey bee stings.
Alkali bees are essential for pollinating alfalfa. Alfalfa is a member of the pea family and the flowers have a lower lip which will snap closed and whack honeybees on the butt but Alkali bees have figured out how to get in and out of the flowers quickly and efficiently. Sunflower bees hatch late in the season to coincide with the bloom of sunflowers as do Long Horned bees which love asters as well as sunflowers. Mason bees are also commonly referred to as ‘orchard bees’ because they are so good at pollinating apples and stone fruits such as cherries. Sunflower bees hatch late in the season to coincide with the bloom of sunflowers as do Long Horned bees which love asters as well as sunflowers. The tiny Mining bees which nest in bare spots in lawns are the first to wake up and pollinate maples and willows which bloom in spring.
How do you know if a plant is a native? Well, if it’s a color (like bluish hybrid tea roses) or shape (lots of petals on the rose) that is unusual it is most likely a hybrid. Look for old-thyme classics like native roses (rosa woodsii or rosa glaucahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosa_woodsii) to support the natives in your garden.
Also remember to plant such natives as liatris, asters, sunflowers, penstemons, rabbitbrush and native bee plant. Anything with tubular flowers is always a good choice for the native bees and many of them bloom in should seasons when nothing else is available.
https://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.png00Mike Wadehttps://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.pngMike Wade2019-03-27 10:38:482021-03-17 18:44:06Why Are Native Plants Important?
Beginning in March, as the days lengthen and temperatures begin to warm (at least some of the time!) the bees are starting to raise brood again. April means the delivery of packages and nucs and towards the end of the month established overwintered honeybee hive begins to think of swarming. This is a very busy time for beekeepers and bees. With the vagaries of winter, some early pollen sources may not materialize and all good stewards of the bees will put sugar water and pollen patties in their hives. Pollen is critical in raising healthy brood and March is the time when the colonies are running out of the nectar and pollen they stored in the fall for surviving all winter. Losing a honeybee hive in the early spring can be caused by starvation although all factors such as mite loads, insecticidal poisoning and other issues should also be considered and evaluated.
As spring creeps ever closer, the most abundant sources of pollen and nectar are available during this time. Brood rearing continues in earnest and beekeepers must watch carefully for signs of swarming. Many beekeepers are eager to add to their hives by capturing swarms and add their names to lists with local and state beekeepers associations. (The swarm hotline number in Colorado if you spot a swarm is 1-844-spy- bees, 1-844-779-2337). Classic signs of swarming include large numbers of bees “bearding” or gathering on the outside of the hive. It’s getting crowded in the hive.
Image by Franz Schmid from Pixabay
Inside a honeybee hive that is beginning to swarm a new Queen is being raised. Queen larvae form in a peanut-shaped cell that is much larger than the cell used to raise worker bees and drones. They are usually on the bottom or sticking off the side of a frame. Once the Queen cells form, the bees are already committed to swarming and half of the colony (mostly newly hatched workers who can help the most with producing wax for the honeycomb at the new location) will leave with the older Queen. The new queen is left behind but must leave the hive to fly into the “drone zone” for mating, return to the hive and begin laying eggs. Beekeepers can prevent swarming by “splitting” their hives. This involves removing a few frames with capped brood and plenty of “nurse bees” to take care of the newly hatched brood into a new hive body. Some of the honey stores and pollen should also be placed in the new hive. Some beekeepers move a capped queen cell with a larva inside to the new hive and others purchase a mated queen from a beekeeper in the queen-rearing business.
https://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.png00Mike Wadehttps://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.pngMike Wade2019-03-20 14:00:032021-02-04 13:07:23April Happenings in the Honeybee Hive
Those pesky critters that buzz by, causing us to dance and flap our arms when we are outside, are far more than a mere annoyance. We don’t give these tiny powerhouses the credit they are due.
Native pollinators such as bees, butterflies, flies, moths, beetles, and bats are essential for human survival but their populations are in a serious decline. Our fuel, food, drugs, and fiber are directly and indirectly taken from plants that depend on pollinators for their existence. Some have estimated that one out of every three to four mouthfuls of food we eat results from the actions of pollinators. Pollinated crops contribute an estimated $20 billion to our economy each year. Native pollinators control the healthy function of our natural ecosystem. The documented decline of native pollinators, as well as that of the introduced European honeybee, concerns the scientific community. This decline results from the fragmentation and destruction of native habitats which has reduced the food sources for many native pollinators. The traditional corridors of nectar- and pollen-rich plant sources have been destroyed by development and changes in land use. Isolated habitats are further degraded by non-native and invasive species. Misuse of pesticides and the introduction of non-native pollinators have contributed to the extinction of many of our native species.
The bright side of this issue is that we can help our native essential pollinator populations by choosing to plant nectar- and pollen-rich vegetation species that are native to a specific area that will provide nutrition and cover. Remember to include plants that provide food for the larval stage and also to provide a water source. The flowering plants that are native to your area have co-evolved along with their pollinators to provide the perfect combination of petal shapes, fragrances, and colors for their mutual benefit. Make sure to plant a variety of native plant species of mostly perennials to ensure an appropriate and dependable supply of nectar and pollen for the bees, butterflies, and other pollinators throughout the spring, summer and fall. Select nectar-rich species with clusters of brightly colored tubular florets and plant them in groupings rather than as individual plants. Avoid cultivars of plants grown mainly to produce larger flowers as these often do not have the pollen or nectar that the pollinators require. Bees are attracted to purple, blue, and yellow flowers and hummingbirds prefer red and orange flowers. Try to include night-blooming varieties to attract bats and nocturnal moths. Use pesticides sparingly or not at all. Have patience, most perennials will take one or two seasons, with good care, to bloom. Read more here>https://bbbseed.com/pollinators/about-pollinators/
Thoughtful plantings, whether in pots and containers or backyard gardens and a conservative, integrated pest management system, can create and establish a stable ecosystem that is pollinator-friendly.
A Queen Bee begins her life in a vaguely peanut-shaped cell that is larger than the one a worker bee or drone comes to life in. It takes three days for the egg to hatch and no matter what type of bee is being raised, it will be fed royal jelly for the first three days. If the larva is intended to become a queen, the royal jelly feedings will continue for three more days when the cell is capped and the larva pupates. The entire cycle lasts for 16 days. Once the queen emerges she needs another week to continue to develop before she leaves the hive on her nuptial flight. Drone bees hang out in an area above treeline where she will mate with about 10 to 20 different drones. She returns to her hive and begins her mission in life – laying up to 20,000 eggs per day. She will never leave the hive (unless it swarms) and will spend her life in the dark being fed and tended to by her daughters. There can be no colony without her.
The beekeeper can recognize the queen bee because her body is longer, reaching past the length of her wings and legs, and she has a pointed abdomen. Since she is built for egg-laying, she has no pollen sacs on her legs and her tongue is short. She also has no glands to produce wax and takes no part in building combs. The color of the Queen bee can vary from deep gold to reddish-brown and even a brown so deep it looks black. Color has no bearing on whether the Queen is a good one.
A good queen bee is one that lays a lot of eggs in a very tight pattern referred to as “the brood pattern”. The queen works her way in a circular pattern around the comb in ever-wider circles. When checking on the hive the pattern should be densely covered with eggs, larvae and capped brood. This is repeated throughout the hive and it is up to the beekeeper to make sure that there is always plenty of room for the queen to continuously lay eggs. Lake of space for her to continue her mission is one of the chief reasons for swarming.
https://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.png00Mike Wadehttps://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.pngMike Wade2018-11-16 12:40:342021-02-09 11:15:32The Secret Life of a Queen Bee
Each fall, about this time in October, millions of Monarch butterflies begin the journey to their overwintering sites in Mexico and California. In the spring, the Monarch butterflies will then return to their breeding areas across America and as far as Eastern Canada. Four generations of monarch butterflies will be born and die by the time this journey is complete.
In February and March, the butterflies come out of hibernation and begin looking for a mate. These butterflies will then begin to migrate north and east looking for a place to lay their eggs. This begins the first generation. Eggs are laid on milkweed plants in March and April. These eggs will hatch into baby caterpillars that will then feed for about two weeks before beginning metamorphosis. After completing metamorphosis the monarch butterfly emerges and enjoys its short lifespan of about two to six weeks. Before dying the butterfly lays eggs for the second generation. This second generation is born in May and June and the third in July and August. Both of these generations will go through the same life cycle as the first generation. The fourth generation of Monarch butterflies is born in September and October and will go through the same process as the first three generations except for this generation of butterflies will live 6-8 months making the migration journey to the warmer climates of Mexico or California.
photo courtesy of pixabya – skeeze
Monarch butterflies living east of the Rocky Mountains will overwinter in Mexico in oyamel fir trees. The Monarchs living west of the Rockies will overwinter in eucalyptus trees in and around Pacific Grove, California. It wasn’t until 1975 that we discovered these overwintering sites. The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve is a World Heritage Site that contains most of the overwintering sites for the eastern Monarch population.
Monarch butterflies migrate for two reasons. The first is because the butterflies can’t withstand the freezing temperatures in the northern and central continental climates during winter. Secondly, their larval food source (milkweed) does not grow in their overwintering sites.
In recent years researchers have found the Monarch population numbers to be declining. Some reasons may include the loss of milkweed species needed for larval development, unintended effects of pesticide use and the loss of habitat in overwintering sites in both Mexico and California. Creating more Monarch habitat could help the declining populations. Planting milkweed species and other nectar-producing plants is a great place to start. Start by planting our Monarch Rescue Mix!
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