Saw this story...very sad!
Here is a link that might be useful: Monarch butterflies drop, migration may disappear
I would love to get old county road maps and find a route from Mexico to Maine that follows only less-traveled paths. Mark those roads on the map, and publish it throughout the US. Then encourage folk who live along that route to plant milkweed along the road and in their yards to provide a direct path from the overwintering site to the far Northeast. In time, we could find branches off the initial route that could be planted to guide the Monarchs to other spots that will be rehabilitated. Any stretches that are farmed or developed would be areas for established organizations like Monarch Watch to concentrate their resources. I know the Monarchs might not follow human paths, but it would give us humans a tangible route to focus on. Anyone have any suggestions for the route? We could even have a few options for around large cities, etc. Maybe I can spread the idea soon enough that planting along the route could get started this spring.
Just wondered if anyone has ordered flats of milkweed seedlings from Monarch Watch? I haven't, because we're still in drought and I couldn't keep that many watered until they're established out on my property. Don't have room for that many milkweeds in my yard, where I would be able to keep them watered.
Here is a link that might be useful: Milkweed Market
Those flats of milkweed seedlings aren't intended only for gardens where they will be coddled and watered routinely. Monarch Watch supplies plants for restoration projects and roadside projects that are trying to establish natives where there will not be any supplemental water provided. Though not every plant will survive, they are tough enough that those that do survive will be able to spread and multiply. Scientists have experimented with various methods of planting, whether direct seeding, plowing and then seeding, or planting growing plugs. They found that the plugs, with some root system already in place, had the best chance of survival, or were the best financial method of getting milkweed planted. So, if you have any space that you could plant milkweed and forget it, go for it.
I Winter stratify in the garage and Spring sow into flats to establish the seedlings a bit. Paper egg cartons work good for me because they fit in the windowsill and can just be divided and each egg cell planted whole, without disturbing the root balls. The paper is biodegradable and the roots grow right through without binding. This method does require diligent daily watering, though.
Just from my experience with the local native milkweeds here, during periods of time when rainfall is less than one inch a month, it would require a bit of supplemental water to get them established the first year. I've tried just leaving them be and they died, never came back. I think that in the wild, the milkweeds get established in years where there's fairly adequate rainfall, then just come back up every year. Many go dormant in summer and winter both if necessary in my area. There's a forecast for El Nino to show up this year. I doubt that, but if it happens (or if it goes from La Nina to Neutral), I can just go crazy planting milkweed seeds and seedlings on the property. In the meantime, I can sow milkweed seeds in pots.
I start mine early, around Mid April or so and give them a good head start. I concentrate on Swamp Milkweed because it's the most attractive to both butterflies and gardeners. Common tends to spread and Purple gets eaten by rabbits, of all things.
Tuberosa is way down on the Monarch Taste Test and Oscar never gets off the ground here.
So far, incarnata is the most attractive nectar source in the garden, surpassing even the Buddlea. Tiger Swallowtails love them, too. And wabbits leave them alone >:-)
Have you tried Poke or Whorled milkweeds? I have some milkweed growing in quite a shady area that were there when I bought the house. I had one wild Monarch siting last summer, and it happened to be an ELF using those plants. I thought they were A. Syriaca that happened to be in a bad spot, but someone here saw a picture of them and said they were Poke milkweed. None of them flowered, so I wasn't able to save seed, but I am definitely curious to see how they did over our cold winter. The Whorled milkweed is one I bought seed from a native plant source online. Hopefully, they will do well with wintersowing. Unfortunately, I think my chance of seeing any Monarchs here this summer is slim.
I tried Poke Milkweed, and it immediately was devoured by greedy bunnies :(
My Whorled Milkweed I kept in 4" pots until the last minute, and they seem to be a little more distasteful to them, as they left them alone in preference for my Liatris seedlings.
Poke Milkweed is Zone 4 hardy, so you shouldn't have any worries there.
I just saw a thread on this forum stating that the California reserve of Monarchs is decent, so we'll see what happens.
I am also trying Tall Green Milkweed and Spider Milkweed just to see if they are "Rabbit Hardy". So far, so good on the Tall; the Spider was already dormant when I planted them.