Now that the weather up north is cooling off, Monarch (Danaus plexippus) butterflies are returning to My Florida Backyard in droves. In the hottest months of summer, monarchs and many other butterflies aren't seen quite as frequently, as it's just too hot for their cold-blooded bodies. Now that cooler temps have arrived (this week's unseasonal heat wave notwithstanding), the monarchs are haunting the milkweed again.
The migration of monarchs to Mexico each winter is well-known. However, Central and South Florida have a year-round resident population of monarchs, as our weather doesn't generally get cold enough to make migration necessary. You'll find them nearly every month of the year, although they're more common in spring and fall months when the weather is best for flying.
Milkweed is the key to bringing monarchs to your yard. Adults nectar on the flowers, and females lay eggs on the plants so their caterpillars can consume the leaves. There are many varieties of milkweed available for sale, but in Florida you're most likely to find non-native Tropical or Scarlet Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), as seen in these pictures. You may also find Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa), which has bright yellow flowers but tends to wilt a bit during the hottest parts of summer. There are other species of milkweed native to Florida, but you'll rarely find them for sale.
With Halloween just around the corner, it's nice of the monarchs to drop by and bring a little holiday color to My Florida Backyard!