Saving the Monarch Butterfly

by Karen on July 7, 2014

Monarch_Butterfly_MilkweedNo, not the king. Monarch as in butterfly. Apparently those ubiquitous black and orange beauties are becoming more and more rare. If things keep going as they are, kids aren’t going to be branding all orange butterflies “Monarchs” like we did when we were young. Monarchs swarmed us in the summertime. We’d like that to continue!

Karen is a big gardener and each year attends a local Gardening Symposium. This spring, the featured speaker was Nicole Hamilton of the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy. Nicole painted a frightening picture of what’s happening with the Monarch butterflies – and it drove Karen to garden with even more meaning to it. Apparently the Monarchs are disappearing at a rate that’s so fast it’s hard to make sense of it.

They measure Monarchs by the acre – no they’re not superhero size butterflies – it’s the number of acres the Monarchs “cover” in Mexico when they migrate south for the colder seasons. Monarchs used to cover 50 acres and it’s now closer to 1.5 acres. The reasons for their decline are many – from natural cold spells to not so natural pesticide and herbicide use in farming.

monarchs in flight

Karen left the symposium with a plan. What we can do to help those beautiful Monarchs is GARDEN- a no brainer for Karen. And even better, what we need to plant is milkweed. Milkweed grows like, well, a weed in this area so all you need is a place and some plants, and you’ll have a lovely butterfly habitat.

Willow Springs GardenKaren works in gardens all over town – not really, but in addition to her home garden, she co-leads the garden club for her daughter’s elementary school and helped plant a butterfly garden at her son’s former preschool. The kids helped get the garden spaces cleared and planted – not hard to get the youngsters interested in playing in the dirt!

So now, there are officially three more butterfly hot spots in the NOVA area. We’re proud to have helped build them and inspire the next generation to keep gardening and caring about what’s happening in our environment.

Her efforts were great enough to warrant a piece in the Fairfax Times – check it out HERE if you missed it!

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