Finding Milkweed

May 4, 2017 by Elizabeth Howard

Monarchs travel hundreds of miles across the landscape in search of the milkweed they need for egg-laying. How do they find it?

“A faded female laying eggs on newly emerged milkweed - A. syriaca and A. incarnata.” Sighted April 27, 2017 in Lititz, PA by Kim Frey.

Waiting for the Surge

The lull between generations continues. The first half of May is always the slowest time of year, and this year is no exception.

Observers are seeing the last of the monarchs from Mexico and their physical descriptions are increasingly dire. These “torn, tattered, dull, faded, pale” butterflies may be 9 months old!

Hot and Cold

Monarchs responded to this week’s temperature extremes:

  • First sightings were reported as far north as New York City during a heat wave in the eastern U.S., where northern regions were as warm as Texas.
  • The migration’s northward advance came to a halt in the Midwest where freezing temperatures and snow exposed monarchs to the risks of frost.

Finding Milkweed

Monarchs have an uncanny ability to find milkweed. This week they found some under a deck, beside a pool, in potted plants, wildlife parks, backyards and schoolyards, on milkweed that was just emerging and on plants in full bloom.

Milkweed isn’t easy for us to find, so how do monarchs do it?

How Do Monarchs Find Milkweed?

Essential Question

How do monarchs sense the world and which senses lead them to milkweed?