Is your Milkweed native?

The Atlanta Botanical Garden hosts Science Cafe, a series of informal science based talks that encourage the public to engage with speakers on important topics. This years series focuses on pollinators and their conservation, and highlights several important pollinator related projects and the researchers behind them.

Today we are highlighting Dr Jaret Daniels  an Associate Professor of Entomology at the University of Florida  who spoke at the Gardens on Monarch butterfly conservation. Monarch butterflies are some of the most iconic species of butterfly in North America, primarily because of their enigmatic coloring and their fascinating migratory patterns. However due to declining habitat, numbers of Monarchs have been decreasing.

In his presentation, along with outlining  overall habitat decline, Daniels pointed out one of the other threats to Monarch butterflies is non-native milkweed. Daniel informed the audience that planting tropical milkweed could cause populations of Monarchs to persist longer into the cooler months, causing them to freeze in a cold Atlanta winter, rather than migrating south for overwintering in warmer climates.

Instead native milkweed species such as Asclepias tuberosa and Asclepias incarnata are excellent caterpillar host plants, and nectar plants for adult butterflies. These types of milkweed provide forage and nesting for Monarchs, and are encouraged in plantings of pollinator gardens.

Additionally Daniels encourages gardeners to vet local milkweed sources, and be sure your native milkweed is pesticide free. This is because some systemic pesticides can remain in the plant, and be transferred to Monarch caterpillars and adults.


Monarchs overwinter at El Rosario Monarch Sanctuary. Flickr: Heather Spaulding


Daniels talk fostered a clearer understanding of the biology and conservation issues related to one of North America’s most famous pollinators. For more information on Dr. Jaret Daniels research and scientific lepidopterian interests you can visit his academic page here.



Co-blogged by GAPP + Jataysia Daniels, Greening Youth Foundation & Atlanta Botanical Garden Conservation Intern!


Georgia Butterfly Brochure

Do you want to know who is who in your pollinator garden? Well now you can thanks to The North American Butterfly Association ( Georgia- Piedmont Chapter), who have teamed up with Dr. Jaret Daniels and Monarchs acrossGeorgia to create a Georgia butterfly brochure.

With funding from Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites and the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service, This brochure is a step by step guide on how to properly identify butterflies.


Knowing which butterflies are in your local area will help you, help them, by becoming informed about the butterflies specific host plants, and life cycles. This step by step guide is  broken up into three categories; brushfoots, whites/sulphurs/skippers, and swallowtails so that you can easily  identify butterflies in your local pollinator gardens!

Download the brochure here and start identifying your garden’s visitors today!


Co-blogged by GAPP + Jataysia Daniels, Greening Youth Foundation & Atlanta Botanical Garden Conservation Intern!

Discovery day at the Jimmy Carter Library

Come and join the GAPP team and other partners on Saturday June 18th from 9:00am to 1:00pm for a fun day of hands-on Monarch butterfly and pollinator activities at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Sponsored by the Rosalyn Carter Butterfly Trail, The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, the discovery day will feature booths for children and adults to learn more about pollinator conservation.
Partners for the event include Monarchs across Georgia, Atlanta Botanical Garden, Blue Heron Nature Preserve, Emory University and many many more who plan to have exciting activities and information for participants.
So come and enjoy this FREE event, interact with some of Georgia’s most dedicated pollinator conservationists and learn what we are doing to promote pollinator abundance and health in Georgia!
As an added bonus the Freeedom Farmers’ Market will also be attending and operating at the event, which features several native plant vendors! So if you missed all those native plant sales we blogged about at the beginning of this month, here is your chance to get some great natives for your pollinator garden!

What to do in Winter

As the days get colder, you may be looking out the window at your garden, and wondering what can be done to a pollinator garden in winter?

Well, this time of year provides an excellent opportunity to think about how your garden provides for those pollinator species who need a place to overwinter.  Bees and some species of butterflies that do not migrate, need areas in which they can spend the cold months, waiting for the warm days of spring to arrive. Understanding the different needs of these two important pollinators is the first step in providing a garden that allows for these species to stay and overwinter.

For bees, the good news is, if you are already providing nesting structures to accommodate pupation, you are already providing areas for overwintering as well, as most species do not require different habitats. For example, an adult carpenter bee returns to its larval tunnels and the end of spring, and stays through winter. In contrast female bumblebees will not hibernate in their original cells, instead the queen buries herself beneath leaf litter or debris.

For your garden it is then encouraged to allow for small areas to house leaf litter piles, thatch piles or grass clippings. Remember, the best and most usable pollinator gardens are those that resemble wild, natural habitats, so don’t be too neat! Also, if you haven’t already, start implementing some ideas for providing shelter and nesting sites, they can double as overwintering sites for most species, like the carpenter bee.

Unlike bees, most butterflies have different habitat requirements in summer and winter. Species that pupate during winter do so in cocoons, underground, or in a hard chrysalis.  For your pollinated garden to support butterflies during the colder months, the physical structure of the environment is far more important than the  actual plant species available.   Tall grasses, bushes, trees, old fence posts, and piles of leaves and sticks will provide good overwintering sites for butterflies.

Again, small amounts of general garden debris may not be desirable for a heavily manicured formal garden, but is just perfect for a pollinator garden! A good rule of thumb is if you know that some of the species that you spot in spring may also overwinter in specific areas of your garden, keep these areas undisturbed throughout the winter.

There are several more detailed ideas presented here about cultivating nesting and overwintering sites for native bee and butterfly species through the use of natural garden elements and artificial structures .

If you are encouraged to start implementing some new ideas this winter, at the end of the coming spring, you will have some pretty happy tenants who may just want to extend their lease….. long term.



Volunteer and help monitor Monarchs!

Monarch butterflies are a keystone pollinator species, and their larvae can be found on native milkweed species in many GAPP pollinator gardens during spring and summer.

Monarch Health is a citizen science program run by Dr. Sonia Altizer in the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia. It is targeted toward understanding host-parasite interactions in Monarch butterflies.  The project relies on volunteers who sign up to conduct protozoan parasite testing on Monarchs in their area. The data will then be used by the organization to better understand the spread of a protozoan parasite across North America. Participants are mailed a free testing kit, and the procedure does not harm the Monarchs in any way.

Anyone who is interested in pollinator conservation and would like to help on a project that contributes to the scientific knowledge of a very important species can become involved with Monarch Health here

Have you thanked a pollinator today?