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This Week’s Creature Feature: The Monarch Metamorphosis

Plant milkweed to support this ­butterfly’s long migration

      The monarch butterfly is an amazing creature. Its annual lifecycle stretches from Mexico to Canada and back and spans four generations.
      Early in the spring, monarchs that have wintered in forests of Mexico fly north to the southern U.S., where they lay eggs and start the first generation of fast-growing caterpillars. The resultant butterflies travel farther north to lay another generation — and so on. After four generations, the monarchs have reached all the way into Canada. But it is autumn by the time that generation starts the long flight back to Mexico.
       Each generation of monarchs requires a plant species called milkweed to survive. Milkweed is very susceptible to herbicides. Large farms where herbicides are sprayed have become barriers interrupting the monarch migration. Since 2016, wintering monarchs have dropped by 27 percent.
      Concerned about the decline, state highway administrations are no longer spraying or cutting milkweed along roadways. You can help, too. Plant the beautiful swamp milkweed, and do not worry when a striped caterpillar eats the leaves. Also plant butterfly weed for nectar for monarchs in their butterfly stage.