The black and orange monarch butterfly will arrive in large numbers in the state of Nebraska by Memorial Day.
Dr. Ted Burk, Professor of Biology at Creighton University, says the butterflies that will make their way across the state are the offspring of the monarchs who migrated through the area last fall. Burk says the Midwest raises three generations a year.
What he finds most amazing is that these millions and millions of monarchs will migrate thousands of miles to an area smaller than Creighton’s campus.
Burk says there are two things butterflies need above all else. The first is nectar plants for the adults.
When planting your own butterfly garden, he says it’s important to make sure something is flowering throughout the growing season, which runs into October.
That’s so different butterflies and bees will have something they can feed on throughout the summer and fall.
"Annuals can be really good, cosmos, zinnia, marigolds, verbena, those are all really good. There are native perennials one can get like wild bergamot. For the fall, asters are really good. And the other thing is some of the flowering trees and shrubs are important this time of year, early in the spring, especially for bees, when there’s not much else out.”
Burk says the second thing butterflies need is plants for caterpillars. And that means milkweed. He explains the nice thing about milkweed is once they flower, they’re great nectar plants for pollinators.
Burk says thankfully monarch butterfly numbers are on the rebound after losing significant habitat in the past due to illegal logging activity in Mexico and herbicide use in the Midwest.
For more information on how to attract butterflies and caterpillars to your garden, the website is Xerces.org.