Efforts to increase monarch butterfly populations by establishing butterfly gardens require particular attention to the butterfly's food preferences and population cycles, as well to the conditions needed to propagate milkweed. For example, in the Washington, D. C. area and in the northeastern United States, monarchs prefer to reproduce on A. syriaca, especially on young, soft leaves. As monarch reproduction in that area peaks in late summer when A. syriaca leaves are old and tough, the plant needs to be cut back to assure that it will be regrowing rapidly and producing young leaves when monarch reproduction reaches its peak. In the Washington, D. C. area one can have such leaves in July, August, and early September during the main oviposition period in three ways. First, one can grow seedlings. Second, one can cut large shoots to about half their height in June and July before or after they bloom. Third, one can cut large shoots to the ground in June and July. Cut plants often produce new shoots from their rhizomes. It is advisable to let some large, mature shoots remain in summer and fall because large monarch larvae, milkweed tiger moth larvae, and other native species feed on mature leaves. Milkweed bugs commonly feed on follicles. Monarch larvae can consume small seedlings to the ground. To save seedlings, one can transfer larvae from seedlings to larger shoots.
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