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Extension experts identifies a plant sample for a client; photo by Edwin Remsberg

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With years of experience in home horticulture and commercial agriculture, our experts help beginning gardeners achieve successful harvests, encourage gardeners and commercial farmers to donate excess produce to those in need, and use gardening as a vehicle to develop communities.

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2019 Q&A

Answers are provided by Donna Coffin, Extension Professor, Penobscot & Piscataquis Counties; Caragh Fitzgerald, Associate Extension Professor, Agriculture, UMaine Extension Kennebec County; Kate Garland, Horticultural Professional, UMaine Extension Penobscot County; Kathy Hopkins, Extension Educator, UMaine Extension Somerset County; Tori Jackson, Extension Educator: Agriculture and Natural Resources, UMaine Extension Androscoggin and Sagadahoc Counties; Kathleen McNerney, Home Horticultural Coordinator, UMaine Extension Cumberland County; Marjorie Peronto, Extension Educator, UMaine Extension Hancock and Washington Counties; Elizabeth Stanley, Horticulture Community Education Assistant, UMaine Extension Knox, Lincoln, and Waldo Counties; and Frank Wertheim, Extension Educator, Agriculture/Horticulture, UMaine Extension York County.

Q: What species of milkweed can people plant in an effort to provide habitat for Monarch Butterflies? Is this dependent on the specific USDA plant zone I live in? I live in Machias, on the northern end of the coast.

Monarch butterfly on Asclepias incarnata
Monarch butterfly on Asclepias incarnata, our native swamp milkweed. Photo by Reeser Manley.

A: The species of milkweed that I recommend you plant in your home garden for Monarch butterflies is Asclepias incarnata, Swamp Milkweed. It is native to Maine, and unlike the rhizomatous common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), swamp milkweed is a clump forming, self contained milkweed that stays put. Commonly found in swamps and wet meadows, it grows well in seasonally flooded sites and average garden soils. It is hardy to zone 3 (very northern Maine), grows to a height of 4′ – 5′ and a width of about 2′. It blooms in late summer/early fall, and comes in pink and white cultivars. It needs full sun. It might be hard to find in your area, but there are certainly larger nurseries around the state that sell it, and you can probably order it online. Also, on Saturday morning May 25, 2019, we will be having a perennial plant sale at the UMaine Extension Hancock County office in Ellsworth where we will have Asclepias incarnata for sale.

Q: I still have a row of collards in the garden that I can’t remove because of the frozen ground. Today I started pulling dead and gone-by leaves off the collards, thinking I could at least add some greens to my compost heap. As I pulled, I disturbed some kind of flying insects (at least a dozen) evidently living on the plants. They looked and flew like mosquitoes, but on closer inspection, their bodies were somewhat thinner (if that’s possible) and their legs were longer. Lightweight-looking mosquito-like insects. How could they possibly exist, considering the weeks and weeks of sub-freezing cold we’ve been experiencing?

Crane fly
David Cappaert, Bugwood.org

A: After consulting with our Entomologist, we can offer you the following: There are many species in several families of flies that are cold hardy. Many resemble mosquitoes. There are many in the midge groups, including the Chironomids, which the hardcore fly fishers depend on to give them winter action. Your insect is most likely a winter crane fly. You can find more information at Bug Guide.


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