Build It and They Will Come!

Someone asked where I get the monarch eggs from. From Milkweed plants!
Milkweed in my aquarium
All butterflies need both nectar plants—flowers that provide food—and host plants. A host plant is the only place that a specific butterfly will lay her eggs on and the only food that the caterpillar will eat. For example: for the swallowtail, the carrot family, including parsley, is the host. I know many of you might have found a big caterpillar eating your parsley! For the monarch, the host plant is Asclepius, commonly known as milkweed. There are many varieties, but I plant only tropical milkweed here in SC. It is not invasive, as the “weed” name implies. It’s actually a pretty, tall plant with lovely orange and yellow flowers.

This year I planted a butterfly garden and I’ve had so many monarchs come by! They flutter around my milkweed, delighted to find a place to lay eggs. Then they go to my butterfly garden flowers to eat. It makes me happy to watch them and I forget my stress for that glorious moment. I encourage you to plant milkweed in your garden. And please do not spray pesticides! Remember, pesticides kill all insects, including the butterflies!

Checking my milkweed leaves for monarch eggs
I go to the garden each day and hunt for the small, pearly white monarch eggs found on the underside of the leaves. I bring them into my aquarium to raise, because wasps, spiders, and other insects prey upon the eggs. In nature, as low as 1% of eggs will survive to butterfly. So I bring them in to raise. It is critical to have enough milkweed to raise the caterpillars. They eat more than you will anticipate. I suggest one milkweed plant per caterpillar as a good rule of thumb. Next year I’m already planning on doubling my milkweed plants!

It’s a joy to see so many different butterflies visiting my garden this year. I promise—build it and they will come!


  1. Mary Alice, I just saw the cover for your new novel and love it! I can hardly wait for this book and am fascinated with the cycle you are showing us of the Monarch Butterfly. My husband is our gardener and his flowers attract many Monarch's at this time of year...I'm going to tell him about the milkweed plant so he can plan on this in his garden next year!

  2. Lovely! My friend Sherry pointed the way here. I blogged my own adventures with monarchs this year. So exciting, isn't it?
    I can't wait for monarch season already. We dispatched our "Frida" and wish we had tagged her. Oh well...I will just have to hope that she made it all the way to Mexico.



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All the best,
Mary Alice