Monarch friendly initiative taking place along trail network

By Lindsay Advocate

City staff are undertaking monarch-friendly initiatives along the trail system in Kawartha Lakes. File photo.

Residents and visitors who have travelled along the trail system recently in Kawartha Lakes may have noticed that staff have been leaving patches of ground vegetation untouched; in particular, patches around milkweed plants. This is no coincidence, as staff are doing this in order to sustain and support monarch butterfly and caterpillar habitats.

Female monarchs primarily lay eggs on milkweed plants, as it is the only host plant that supports a monarch’s full life cycle.

Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on the leaves of milkweed. Milkweed is critical for the survival of monarchs. Without it, they cannot complete their life cycle and their populations decline. Not only do the monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed, but they, like other butterflies and moths, undergo complete metamorphosis on the plant. The egg and caterpillar stages survive solely on species of milkweed, whereas adults can survive on nectar from a variety of flowering plants, including but not limited to milkweed.

The milkweed plant provides both food and shelter for the caterpillar. It lives on the plant for approximately two weeks (dependent on temperature) while it eats almost constantly, pausing only to shed its skin.

This monarch-friendly initiative will take place during the summer months and will see staff re-visit the patches in the fall months to complete mowing once the butterflies have migrated south. To learn more about monarchs and milkweed visit the Nature Conservancy of Canada website.

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