April 21, 2005

Help the Monarch Butterflies (reg req, sorry). MonarchWatch, an organization started by University of Kansas professor Orley Taylor, announced today that they are looking for 10,000 volunteers to set up "way stations" to help Monarch butterflies in their annual migration from Mexico to Canada and back.

Development of open land and the widespread use of herbicides are reducing habitat that provides nectar to feed the butterflies on their journey, and milkweed plants on which they must lay their eggs. The article in today's Kansas City Star linked above said that Monarch watch would sell a “way-station kit” with seed packets and information on how to create the best habitat, but I couldn't find it in their store (although there are lots of cool gardening and nature things there that I want!). You can find an online guide to gardening for butterflies that will tell you which plants provide nectar, and tons of online information, photos and resources for teachers. There's also a blog of last year's trip from KU to the wintering grounds in Mexico, though for some odd reason it reverses the blog practice of having the newest entries on top. The Star article also says that Monarch Watch also plans to set up a registry of way-station sites and will give registrants a sign they can stick in their garden identifying it as a monarch way station.

  • Already grow milkweed in a bed on front of our house -- it has a sweet vanilla scent and is attractive at the rear of a flowerbed. And will stay covered with butterflies for weeks. Seed is easy to save, grows in big pods that turn from green to brown before they split open, so it need not become a pest. Butterflys also enjoy a shallow dish of water with a little salt stirred into it.
  • Funny beeswacky, I often find myself passed out face down in a shallow dish of water with a little salt stirred into it.
  • Best ye avoid the ocean, grover96!
  • I was living in Monterrey, Mexico, during the migration one year. It was quite amazing. A river of butterflies flew by - over the top of the house and down to the street, always maintaining the same distance from the surface below them. It lasted for days. It had never occurred to me before that butterflies could have purpose. Oh, and among the stream of orange and black, there'd be an occassional spot of yellow - a swallowtail that had gotten caught up in the excitement.
  • We get Monarchs passing through. Or maybe they're lost. I've never been able to figure out how they get to Hawai'i from Mexico, or how they leave. They'll only be here for about a week when they arrive, though.