Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Help Us Save The Monarch Butterfly Migration



Charlotte Preparatory School Fourth Grade Students have been researching Monarch Butterflies throughout the 2013-2014 school year.  The students have learned that the number of migrating Monarch Butterflies has been decreasing rapidly for the past twenty years. There are numerous reasons why. One reason for the decline is the use herbicides that kill Milkweed in farming. Another reason is urban sprawl. What used to be fields of Milkweed are now covered with concrete and buildings. Milkweed is the only plant on which Monarch Butterflies will lay their eggs.  Monarchs make a fascinating migration each year to hibernate to certain forests in Mexico. There was a record low number of hibernating Monarchs in the winter of 2013-2014,  the area of forest was only 1.65 acres, compared to the 17-acre average over the last 20 years. The numbers have been steadily dropping each year at an alarming rate. 

 Hopefully, if we increase the number of Milkweed plants we will slow down the decline of migrating Monarch Butterflies.                     

How can you help?
You can plant milkweed and various types of nectar plant. The nectar plants will attract the Monarchs and they will lay their eggs on the milkweed. There are two types of milkweed that are common in this part of North Carolina. They are Asclepias Syriaca(Common Milkweed)  and Asclepias Incarnata (Swamp Milkweed).

A waystation is an area that includes both host plants (milkweed) and nectar plants. There are a wide variety of nectar plants that can be bought at local nurseries. Some popular varieties for butterfly gardens include: Butterfly Bush, Aster, Black-eyed Susans, and Cardinal Flowers, to name a few. There is a wealth of information about Monarch Butterflies and how to become a certified Monarch Waystation at

Our Plants

Our students propagated our plants by harvesting the seed pods from our own Swamp Milkweed in the fall. Each plant produced three to four seed pods. We harvested approximately 200 pods. Once the pods were dried, the students removed the seeds from the pods and separated the fluff from the seed. We collected between 5000-6000 seeds from our small milkweed garden (about four by eight feet). The seeds next then had to go through the process of cold stratification. This is a process by which seeds are put through an artificial "wintering" process to mimic cold weather. They were wrapped in damp paper towels and sealed in bags. They were stored in a refrigerator for about two months. This process weakens the seed coat and helps to improve germination. 

Care Information for Our Plants

Name: Swamp Milkweed or Asclepias Incarnata
Type of Plant: The Swamp Milkweed is a perennial plant, meaning it will die back in the fall, but the roots underground will stay alive and it will bloom again the next spring. They grow to be three to five feet tall. 

Care: They prefer moist soil in full sun or partial shade. They do well next to ponds or streams.

Monarch Identification:


  1. Wow, I had this blog forwarded to me by a colleague who teaches with me. This is a great project, and the 4th grade students are doing a great job! I am so impressed that they collected and germinated their own seeds. We are trying to make butterfly gardens at some of our schools in Ohio, and I hope that you soon see milkweed patches all over Charlotte!

  2. Darcy,
    Thanks for your kind words! Our students are really glad to be helping. We are also glad to hear there are many other schools embracing the Monarch issue!

  3. Thank you for helping us with the Monarch Buterflies. We worked really hard but it was still fun!

  4. This has been a great project. I really love working to save the monarchs. I hope every one decidedes to help so we can help protect the monarch migration.