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Friday, May 12, 2017
In 2012, the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener volunteers began a restoration of the gardens of the Dana-Thomas House and at the cottage on the west side of the railroad tracks. One of the many projects undertaken was a planting of various native plants in a garden behind the cottage. This project was later expanded to include appropriate plants for a pollinator garden.
Monarch butterflies are an iconic species that have received a lot of attention in the past few years due to their declining population. Reduction in numbers can be attributed to loss of habitat or fragmentation of habitat, resulting in the disappearance of milkweed plants. The monarch caterpillar feeds almost exclusively on milkweed plants, Asclepias species. This means that if there is not enough food to go around for the caterpillars, then there will not be as many adults. In addition to lack of milkweed plants for caterpillars, there is also a lack of nectar plant food sources for the adult butterflies.
Master Gardener volunteers planted several varieties of milkweed in the cottage garden, as well as a number of other native plants to serve as a source of nectar for pollinators. The garden is now well established, and plants are flourishing.
As of May 9, there are about 30 large monarch caterpillars on the milkweed in the pollinator garden at the cottage. This is the most caterpillars that we have seen on these milkweed plants.Currently, they are voraciously eating - next step chrysalis, then butterfly. From egg to adult takes about 30 days- 3 to 4 days as an egg, 10 to 14 days as caterpillar, and 10 to 14 days as a chrysalis.
The garden habitat located behind the cottage is certified by Monarch Watch as a Monarch Waystation and is a certified University of Illinois Extension Pollinator Pocket.
To learn more about monarchs, visit Save the Monarch Butterfly, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/ .
Dana-Thomas house is located at 301 East Lawrence Avenue, Springfield.
Monarch caterpillars are also on the milkweed plants in our Prairies to Perennials Garden located in front of the U of I Extension Building, 700 S. Airport Drive, Springfield.
Article written by: Deborah Berman, University of Illinois Extension Logan-Menard-Sangamon Master Gardener Volunteer; pictures from Deborah Berman and Mary Schaefer.