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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Diversity of Plants Help in Butterfly Gardens

Q. I've been thinking about growing milkweed plants to help in the Monarch butterfly fight. Any thoughts?

A. I agree with you wholeheartedly on encouraging our local populations of butterflies and moths. They add a lot of beauty and grace to our landscape and provide some pollination and act as a food supply.
Butterflies can be pollinators

To my knowledge the Monarch butterfly does not pass through southern Nevada in its migration. I understand there are two migration routes; one from the Eastern population and the other supports the Western population.

The Eastern population misses us completely in its migration routes to Mexico. The Western population is restricted for the most part by the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Instead of focusing just on milkweeds I think a diversity of plant material for attracting these insects might be important. I have posted some reading material on my blog regarding butterfly gardens.
Reducing or eliminating pesticide use in the butterfly garden area would be wise. There are a number of pesticides that are harmful including two that I recommend frequently to organic gardeners: Bt and Spinosad. When considering pollinators both of these insecticides can be lethal to butterflies.

Always apply pesticides, if they must be applied, at times when these creatures are not active. This means the very early morning hours. Many of our moths fly at night so I would avoid applying pesticides at dusk if a major concern are night flying moths.

I put together some links on general information on Monarch butterflies, moths and butterflies of southern Nevada and how to make a butterfly garden. I wish you much success.

Wikipedia on Monarch butterflies

Threats to Monarch butterflies

Map of Monarch routes

Butterflies of southern Nevada.

How to make a butterfly garden in the southwestern desert of the US


  1. Bob,
    I live in Bullhead city and the answer about the Monarchs in this weeks column not coming into the Las Vegas valley might be wrong. if they are near me, it’s only 90 miles to Las Vegas.
    every year we have quite a number of Monarchs here. I have some pictures and a short video from 2012 showing the swarms in my back yard around our swamp waddle tree. also a few years ago when I was driving here from Los Angeles while we were building this house, our car was covered with hundreds that we hit on 40. we’ve had some every year since and even a few as late as last December.
    I can send along the video and pictures if you are interested, but didn’t want to include them in this posting until you requested them.
    love you column.

    1. I think you are right. This weekend I went to 29 palms and I learned from a conservationist there that Monarch butterfly range extends quite a bit further east than I thought or even read about. In the 29 palms area and even further east the monarch butterfly does appear. I have never seen it in Las Vegas but I very well could be wrong about it not being here on occasion. Part of the problem with the extension of the monarch butterfly has been there is no place for them to rest. When the eucalyptus was brought into California this allowed for the migration of the Western flow of the monarch through California. Prior to having the eucalyptus there was nothing tall enough to support their migration.

      So in short I think you are right. I have to amend what I said in light of what you have told me as well as the conservationist in 29 palms. Thanks for contacting me and I will post these comments below that question.

  2. We do get Monarchs in Las Vegas and they reproduce here around their migration time in September-October. I have some nice photographs of Monarch caterpillars feeding on Asclepias subulata flowers and seed pods taken in Henderson. I have also see Monarch caterpillars in the demonstration gardens of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.