I was recently visiting my sister in St. Louis, Mo., when she happened to mention that she had not seen any monarch butterflies this year. I responded that she needed to plant some milkweed.
Realizing that she did not know where to find milkweed seed, she contacted a friend who works for the Community Action Agency of St. Louis County, which is responsible for community gardens. One thing led to another, and she soon found herself being encouraged to create a Monarch Waystation.
Monarchs are among one of nature’s most beautiful creatures, and their migration each fall is a truly remarkable and fascinating event. Hundreds of millions of monarch butterflies migrate from the United States and Canada to overwintering areas in Mexico and California.
Nature, however, has created a problem for the monarch because it is totally dependent upon the milkweed plant to reproduce. Perhaps when milkweed was in abundance this was nature’s way of keeping the plant in check. Now, however, milkweed has been eliminated on farms and roadsides by herbicides and is in short supply. This in turn threatens the monarch, and they are in danger of disappearing.
That is were a Monarch Waystation, which is sponsored by the Monarch Watch program comes in. One of the places you can buy milkweed seed is at their website: http://monarchwatch.org/waystations/
In addition to selling milkweed seed you can also buy a kit, which contains plants that will provide both milkweed and nectar plants. Your space can also become a certified Monarch Waystation.
Waystations can be in your home garden, or a community effort. They might even be at a business, school, park, or nursing home. In order to be certified, you will need a plan, which involves planting not only milkweed but nectar plants as well.
All monarch life stages require shelter, which can be provided by a variety of plants with certain densities, or closeness of plantings. Depending on the species and size of the plants, a density of 2-10 plants per square yard is recommended. This density is the most effective in providing shelter from both predators and the elements.
So, my sister and I made a trip to the Missouri Botanical Gardens where we did purchase milkweed seeds. It remains to be seen if she will be able to create a Monarch Waystation in her community, but one thing is certain. She will plant those seeds. Even small efforts will help. I plan on buying a kit myself. If you love the monarch perhaps you can help as well.
Do you think nature should be part of our everyday life, not just somewhere to go on the weekends? You are invited to attend our free, open-to-the-public, monthly program on the fourth Monday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Red Oak Library, 200 Lakeview Parkway in Red Oak. For more information on the Indian Trail Master Naturalist Chapter, contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service at 972-825-5175 or visit our website: http://txmn.org/indiantrail/.