Ask EcoBeneficial!

Helpful answers to readers' questions. Go ahead - just ask EcoBeneficial

Kim Eierman

Kim Eierman

Founder of EcoBeneficial!

Available for virtual and in-person landscape consulting, talks and classes.

Buy a copy of
The Pollinator Victory Garden!

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.
Asclepias syriaca_ Dendroica cerulea

How do I tell if Monarchs are in my patch of Milkweed before I cut it?

I have a fairly large area of wild milkweed that I usually cut to keep the area cleared but before I cut it I was wondering if there was a way to tell if Monarch Butterflies are in this patch.  I know that their numbers are lower than a few years ago.


Thanks for writing in.  If Monarchs are present you will often see their caterpillars on milkweed leaves.  You may also have adult Monarchs which have already completed their metamorphosis.  Even if you don’t see Monarch caterpillars or adults, keep in mind that you have a very valuable resource that they need.  Milkweed is also an important source of nectar for many species of native bees, honey bees, many species of butterflies and many other beneficial insects.

It sounds like you may have a stand of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), which is a very important plant for Monarchs and other insects.  Common Milkweed produces nectar not only during the day, but also at night – very important for nocturnal moths, including some beautiful moth species that are very challenged, such as the Luna Moth.

The seeds of of milkweed will feed many seed-eating birds and milkweed stems will provide habitat for many overwintering insects. Always try to leave the plants standing through winter for these reasons.

My suggestion – keep as much of the area standing as you can and only cut back what you truly need to have cleared.  You are supporting a complex food web and a healthy ecosystem.  Check out my recent post on milkweeds for additional information.



Photo: Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Photo credit:  Dendroica cerulea_Flickr


Posted in

More from Ask EcoBeneficial!

Where Are the Pollinators This Year?

Question: I have a pollinator friendly garden in Maryland and I see very few pollinators this year. No butterflies. Only bumble bees. Have you noticed the same? Answer: Things are not good for pollinators this year in the Northeast.  I have seen relatively few pollinators and virtually no butterflies.  I…

Read More

Is ‘Autumn Brilliance’ Serviceberry a Good Pollinator & Bird Plant?

Question: I am thinking about adding the serviceberry Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’ to my landscape. I realize that it is a cultivar of a naturally occurring hybrid of Amelanchier laevis & Amelanchier arborea. Will this plant be a good source for pollinators & birds? Answer: Our native serviceberry species…

Read More

Good Reasons to Stop Blowing Leaves?

Question: My neighbors are constantly blowing leaves off their yard.  Besides being noisy and annoying, I know it’s not good for the environment.  How can I convince them to stop? Answer: Leaf blowing has become an obsession in America.  At this time of year, in the fall, the relentless hum…

Read More