Monarchs' Last Meals

Posted 10/02/08
by Jane Kashlak

We're sitting on the screened in porch having a quick lunch when we spot two Monarchs foraging deep within a fading butterfly bush.

The butterflies have found the buddleia's last blooms.

This time of year, where there are two Monarchs there's a good chance there might be a migration.

Sure enough, a quick tour of our aster patch out back sets off a cloud of Monarchs, getting fortified for their big trip south.

In the dog days of August, our garden is not much to look at. But by October, our garden comes alive with purple, pink and blue New England asters.

Add in some white frost asters (aster pilosus) that reseed very aggressively and a few, over the hill butterfly bushes and you have the recipe for a perfect butterfly rest stop.

Oddly, while the Monarchs congregate on the wild aster plants, they shun the showy Bluebird aster, a special cultivar developed by Mt. Cuba in Delaware.

Those perfectly shaped, beautiful blue flowers never attract a single butterfly.

The Monarchs much prefer the almost weedy patch of lowly, unnamed mongrel asters. Plants which, for much of the year, look like a brushy, neglected area.

By October, those asters have redeemed themselves not only by turning our garden into a blaze of color but also by refueling the Monarchs on their annual Cape May pit stop.

Let's hope that other gardners farther south have similar, weedy patches of asters. There's a hungry mob of Monarchs headed their way.

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