SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Kelly McGowan, a horticulture expert from the University of Missouri Extension Center, joined us in the studio today to talk about monarch butterflies’ habits and how Missourians can help them flourish.

McGowan brought two monarch caterpillars into the studio that will soon enter their chrysalises — that many people mistakenly call cocoons, which are specific to moths — and hide away for about two weeks. After those two weeks, they will break out of their chrysalises and emerge as monarch butterflies.

Monarch populations have been in decline for years. One of the ways that Missourians and anyone else in the monarchs’ habitat zone can help their numbers jump back is by planting milkweed on their property. Milkweed is the host plant for the monarch butterfly. Host plants are where insect species eat, lay eggs, and grow.

Missouri’s placement in the monarch butterfly migration path makes it a good place for people to do what they can to help the butterflies.

McGowan has milkweed in her backyard and she went out and collected the caterpillars the night before the interview. Soon, grown monarch butterflies will begin flying south toward Mexico as temperatures grow colder.

“There’s an internal trigger that triggers monarchs to move south this time of the year and go to their overwintering grounds,” McGowan said. They will return north once winter begins to subside.

“If people want to help, plant milkweed in your backyard and help these guys out,” McGowan said, adding that there are several species of milkweed native to Missouri.

Anyone who wants to get ahold of the UM Extension Center for more information about monarch butterflies can call 417-874-2963 or visit their website.