Establishing the largest Monarch waystation in Canada
Our Butterfly Meadow is sheltered from the wind, gets plenty of sun, and contains a wide variety of plants that provide nectar and are host plants for a number of local butterflies.
Last year (2011), we had the opportunity to enter a contest, organized by the Evergreen Foundation and sponsored by Fido, and we decided this was a great time to create an official Monarch Waystation. Our meadow already met some of the criteria, but we wanted to introduce more milkweeds to help monarchs and add some enhancements.
A base support grant of $2500 from Fido allowed us to buy a number of perennials this spring. We also installed a water tank - partly to make watering the new plants easier, but also to allow us to create a permanently damp spot for butterflies to "puddle." They sip up the water and get essential nutrients from the soil along with it.
With help from a PriceWaterhouse Coopers Green Team (photo at right), our intrepid volunteers cleared an area for planting milkweeds, the host plant for monarch butterflies, and other nectar species.
On July 10 and 17 and on August 14, we held "weed bees" inviting the public to help us pull out dog-strangling vine (DSV), one of the invasive species that is interfering with our efforts to create butterfly habitat. Between 20 and 25 people participated each day, despite the heat, and we managed to clear DSV out of most of the meadow. Many hands really do make light work. Thanks to everyone who helped; you did a fantastic job! See photos.
We're also erecting a bulletin board on site in the Butterfly Meadow to let our many friends and fans know what we're working on. And to ask them to vote for our project in the contest.
Here's the proposal we submitted for the contest.
Project proposal: Creating a Monarch waystation for butterflies and other pollinating insects
We strongly believe in the need to raise greater awareness of the plight of Monarchs and other pollinators. The best way we can do that is by example, and our Old Field and Butterfly Meadow are already inspiring communities, schools, and individual projects throughout our region.
But we need to do more. Monarchs overwintering in Mexico right now are at their lowest number since monitoring started in 1975. The pollinators that we depend on for many of our food crops are in decline. Through this project, we could help butterflies and other pollinators by establishing the largest Monarch waystation in Canada and doing it in partnership with the established MonarchWatch waystation program of the University of Kansas. This would be a great way to bring public attention to the plight of Monarchs and other pollinators. Under the direction of our energetic habitat manager and with advice from a strong supporter who is one of Canada's foremost butterfly authorities, we would
- Plant a substantial area with milkweed species and other nectar-rich plants to provide breeding habitat and a migratory stopover point for Monarchs.
- Expand the existing Butterfly Meadow, by increasing the diversity of native plants that are attractive to butterflies for nectaring and egg laying and that also support a wide variety of other pollinating insects such as bees, flies, moths, and beetles.
- Raise awareness by creating educational signage introducing various pollinators and the important role they play.
- Install bee boxes and other bee-attracting features to show how anyone can make similar structures for gardens, farms, parks, and rural properties. Include a watering system (an essential component of a waystation) and construct discovery trails through parts of the meadow.
- Spread the word by devoting a section of our web site to how to establish and maintain a pollinator meadow; by continuing to network with Pollination Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Federation; by registering our waystation with Monarch Watch to contribute to the wider effort to save Monarchs; by providing tours for school groups, garden clubs, community groups, and others; by inviting the public to help with the project under the direction of our volunteer crew; by holding butterfly walks and talks during the summer; and by using Facebook and Twitter to track use of our meadow by pollinators and drive traffic to our web site for details.