Milkweed & Monarchs

We spotted our last Monarch butterfly about a week ago as it assumably was passing by on the way to overwinter in Mexico. It stopped in to dine on our flowers before heading on its way south.

Late season Monarch.

One of the things we still have blooming profusely is tropical milkweed–Asclepias curassavica. Many experts now say to avoid planting it, but if you do have this pollinator fave, make sure to cut it back to ground level every year.

The reason for cutting it back is that spores of Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, harmful to Monarchs, can collect on the milkweed and help spread the infection. Additionally, in warmer climates where milkweed doesn’t go dormant–the Gulf Coast–it may encourage butterflies to stay stateside instead of continuing on to their winter habitat.

Sometimes nature will freeze it back for you.This year we cut it back and made a temporary bouquet/smorgasbord from the discards that the Gulf fritillaries seem to appreciate. Once wilted well toss it in the compost or burn pile.

Can you spot the Gulf fritillary on this bouquet of milkweed?

Though not as abundant as in the spring and summer, there are still a lot of things blooming at Big Branch Apiary. Two we can recommend are Mexican sunflowers–Tithonia, and Flamingo celosia–Celosia spicata. We’ve found both to be easy to grow, to bloom until frost, and to attract a litany of pollinators.

A Cloudless sulphur stops on the Celosia (top), and a Zebra longings enjoys the Mexican sunflowers (bottom) growing at Big Branch Apiary.

Published by c ben-iesau

From L.A. to LA... I'm a New Orleans based artist and writer.

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