How to Create Your Own Monarch Butterfly Rest Stop

August 21, 2014By
Click the photo of Lincoln Brower, for a video at National Geographic!

Click the photo of Lincoln Brower, for a video at National Geographic!

 

Habitat loss and the destruction of native plants have been responsible for the rapid decline of the monarch butterfly, the most recognized butterfly in North America. To help protect these majestic insects as they migrate, citizens in the U.S. are resorting to a simple yet powerful tool: gardening. Gardens full of milkweed and nectar plants can serve both as rest stops for adult monarchs and as nurseries for their eggs.

 

Manuscript of the video:

NICOLE HAMILTON, PRESIDENT, LOUDOUN WILDLIFE CONSERVANCY:
I was touched originally when I was just a little kid.  I was seven and The National Geographic came in the mail.  And I remembered my dad opening up those pages and I saw those monarch butterflies and I thought, “Wow!  That’s a magic place.”

That experience of going to the sanctuaries in Mexico was phenomenal.  You realize how small we are in this great migration.  It’s just an amazing connection.

When people realize that this is a species that is iconic for America and to have that slip in our lifetime is just a severe a tragedy.  And more and more people are starting to recognize, you know, that there’s an issue.

LINCOLN BROWER, RESEARCH PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGY, SWEET BRIAR COLLEGE:
The monarch to me is sort of like the canary in the cornfield.  I think this monarch is kind of a warning signal.  The most common butterfly probably in the world, over a period of twenty years, is associated with this rapidly developing agriculture just dropping down to practically nothing.   Over the past 21 years for which we have really good data, the numbers have now dropped down to less than ten percent of what they were.

The very fact that millions of them can aggregate in Mexico, the fact that they can cluster in such numbers, is because they have a chemical defense in their bodies which is derived from the milkweed plants.

NICOLE HAMILTON, PRESIDENT, LOUDOUN WILDLIFE CONSERVANCY:
What we do is we encourage people to plant the milkweed, which will attract the adult butterflies.  And then they will lay the eggs.  Then you can raise them and really just help them reach adulthood.

The monarch caterpillars that I raise and that we encourage people to raise are those that are wild found.  And the reason for that is with the population being so low and essentially so fragile, we don’t want to be buying caterpillars or buying larvae that might have disease.  And the more milkweed and the more nectar plants that we have available, the more monarch butterflies themselves can do what they do naturally and bring back the population.

[NICOLE HAMILTON SOT] “Thank you all for coming today.   All of you coming together today, all of things that you are doing, every milkweed plant that you plant and every nectar plant that you plant really makes a difference.”

CHIP TAYLOR, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, MONARCH WATCH AT THE UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS:
What we are trying to do is educate the people throughout the country that we’ve lost a lot of habitat and this is the main reason why the monarch butterflies are down.  We’re losing something like a million to two million acres a year throughout the country just due to development and agriculture and a number of other things that destroy natural habitats.  And so, what that means is if we don’t compensate for that much loss every year we’re going to continue to lose ground with pollinators, with ground nesting birds, with monarch butterflies and everything else that shares those habitats.

NICOLE HAMILTON, PRESIDENT, LOUDOUN WILDLIFE CONSERVANCY:
A lot of times people aren’t even comfortable with planting gardens so we wanted to show people how to do a planting, how to properly secure the roots so that it’s touching soil.

CHIP TAYLOR, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, MONARCH WATCH AT THE UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS:
We can’t mow everything into oblivion, we can’t herbicide everything into a monoculture.  We really have to maintain the diversity out there because that diversity is the crux, the basis, for all of these ecosystems out there.

LINCOLN BROWER, RESEARCH PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGY, SWEET BRIAR COLLEGE:
I am optimistic.  I think that they can be saved.  And I think the reason they can be saved is because enough people care about them.  Monarchs are very prolific insects.  Each female is able to lay up to 300 eggs.  And if the monarchs can get in three or four generations in a row and have a good summer up here in the breeding range, then they’ll come back.

NICOLE HAMILTON, PRESIDENT, LOUDOUN WILDLIFE CONSERVANCY:
I might just plant my one monarch way station which is just a raindrop.  But then if my neighbor sees it and plants one too, and another neighbor sees it and then we start to grow them, then it becomes something significant.

I feel like the people of my generation are responsible for making sure that everybody looking forward still has that experience and that those monarchs, that great migration, is still happening.

 

 

 

 

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