Establishing a Monarch Waystation

Welcome to the Member Ideas area! This community feature is where our members can post their own ideas. These posts are unedited and not necessarily endorsed by the National Gardening Association.
Posted by @SongofJoy on
It doesn’t take a lot of space or expense to establish a Monarch Waystation, and the rewards can be great.

Some years ago I became aware of the plight of the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). With its habitat being destroyed at an alarming rate, this beautiful pollinator is in peril in North America. As a butterfly lover, I certainly wanted to help if at all possible. I became aware of the Monarch Watch website and established my own Monarch Waystation. It was easy to do, it was enjoyable, and the rewards were almost immediate. Even when the number of Monarchs visiting my station is sparse, numerous other butterfly species come in abundance to enjoy the nectar sources.

Thumb of 2013-07-12/SongofJoy/f81382 Thumb of 2013-07-12/SongofJoy/77c7ce

Along with habitat destruction, the fact that this species of butterfly is the only one known to make a two-way migration may make waystations crucial to the survival of the Monarch. Unable to tolerate cold weather or overwinter as larvae or pupae, Monarchs use cues from the environment to know when it is time for their unique migration. This migration can take them as far as 3000 miles and may take up to two months to complete. Monarchs in eastern North America migrate to the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico or to Florida.  Monarchs in western North America overwinter primarily in California. In addition, waystations are necessary because the only source of food for Monarch caterpillars is milkweed plants. It is essential to include native milkweeds in any Monarch Waystation.

Thumb of 2013-07-10/SongofJoy/1052b6
Thumb of 2013-07-10/SongofJoy/33aedc Thumb of 2013-07-10/SongofJoy/fcfc14


A Monarch Waystation can be small or large. It isn’t the amount of planting space that makes a successful waystation but rather the types of plants found there. Colorful flowers are important for attracting Monarchs because butterflies are known to possess good color vision. They can sense more colors than either bees or humans and can even see the color red. In addition to including native milkweeds, waystations may contain any of a number of plants of your choice that serve as nectar sources for the Monarchs. The overwhelming majority of plants in my Monarch Waystation are natives* and include Asclepias curassivica, Asclepias incarnata, Asclepias viridis, Asclepias verticillata, monardas, Gonolobus suberosus (Angelpod, a native vine related to milkweed), phlox, liatris, buddlejas, salvias, eupatoriums (Joe Pye Weed), nepetas, coreopsis, goldenrod, purple coneflowers, sedums, violas, asters, and marigolds. Water sources are also necessary for butterflies to thrive.

While a natural diet is always best, Monarchs can be lured closer to a deck, patio, or porch for observation by providing a source of artificial nectar. Rather than using sugar, make this nectar with a heaping teaspoon of honey (preferably raw) dissolved in half a glass of water, with a drop of soy sauce or liquid amino acids added to provide additional minerals. Saturate a tissue or paper towel with the solution and place in a shallow dish. Sliced fresh fruits like watermelon, apples, oranges, and bananas are also relished by Monarchs.

Feeding, observing, and even raising Monarchs can be an educational and rewarding experience for children and adults alike. Kits designed for farming Monarchs are available or can be made at home fairly easily. In just 25 to 32 days, you can raise and release some of these beauties into a waystation yourself.

Won’t you help the Monarchs by establishing your own Monarch Waystation?

Thumb of 2013-07-10/SongofJoy/41572a Thumb of 2013-07-12/SongofJoy/cc3730
Thumb of 2013-07-12/SongofJoy/957853 Thumb of 2013-07-12/SongofJoy/06ea38

*Always check any non-native plants you choose against the list of invasive plants for your state.

(Photos of Monarchs in the public domain via wpclipart, Hiren & Pankaj's Homepage and Wikimedia Commons; photos of Monarch caterpillar, milkweeds and Monarch Waystation are the author's)

Comments and Discussion
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
The Absolute ANSWER/SOLUTION to Monarch CRISIS. Must Read!!! pass it on!!!! by bhart90 Aug 8, 2015 9:28 PM 0
Untitled by David77901 Apr 13, 2014 7:00 AM 1
Finally found one by flowersrjen Feb 26, 2014 4:28 PM 19
I did it. by clintbrown Sep 1, 2013 3:12 AM 1
Excellent and detailed article. by frostweed Aug 26, 2013 8:53 AM 24

Explore More:

Member Login:

( No account? Join now! )

Today's site banner is by Zoia and is called "Twirling folds"

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.