In a scene straight from the pages of a children's book, larvae (caterpillars) have begun popping up on milkweed plants throughout the area.

The larvae, which feed on the milkweed plants, will turn into Monarch butterflies within a one-month or so growing cycle.

On Wednesday, Aug. 9, Sandy Sullins brought several larvae atop milkweed leaves into the Bernice Nature Center for Park Naturalist Amanda Wiley.

Wiley plans to feed and care for the growing caterpillars in size appropriate bug containers, in order to allow park visitors a chance to observe the changing stages of the creatures - from larvae to butterfly.

Sullins has been growing several varieties of milkweed in the utility easement near her home. 

The plants, which start as seeds, bloom in June and July. The best time to direct sow the seeds, Sullins said, is in September. This allows the plant to experience a freeze and then grow in the natural process.

For those starting plants to sow, Sullins said most growers recommended planting the starts in March or April. Milkweed can be planted in a flower garden or in a patio container.

While Sullins found her initial seeds online, Wiley sells two color varieties of the Asclepias tuberosa, known as the Butterfly Milkweed, at the nature center.

Those seeds, which become orange or pink flowering plants, are grown and packaged by Lorenz's OK Seeds in Okeene.

Why Milkweed

Sullins said the Monarch lay their eggs on the milkweed for two reasons. One, the plant serves as food for the larvae or caterpillars. 

The plant also provides a chemical to the Monarchs which makes them taste bad to birds and other predators. 

While the Monarchs will eat nectar from a variety of flowers, such as Zinnia, Salvia, Lantana, Sunflowers and Black-eyed Susan, only the milkweed serves as a host for the butterfly's eggs.

There are four types of milkweeds native to Oklahoma. The perennials include: Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa), Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) and Prairie Milkweed (Asclepias viridis). 

Monarchs typically spend their spring and summer months in North America, and then travel for the winter months to a forest near Mexico City, Mexico. 

Members of the Oklahoma State Parks and other natural resource agencies often encourage Oklahomans to plant milkweed, to provide migrating Monarchs with a habitat. 

For more information, about Monarchs or growing milkweed, persons interested may contact Sullins at 918-786-2638 or Wiley at 918-786-9447.

Grand Lake State Park - Bernice is located along the shores of Grand Lake at 54101 East State Highway 85A, Afton.

Did You Know?

Sandy Sullins said two websites which provide a plethora of information concerning milkweed plants and Monarch butterflies are https://monarchwatch.org and https://journeynorth.org/monarchs.

A Facebook group Oklahoma Friends of Monarchs also provides resources for those wanting to establish Monarch-friendly habitats.