Nearly one billion monarch butterflies have vanished since 1990 due to habitat destruction, which impacts their primary food source, milkweed, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Efforts to protect monarch butterflies center on educating the public about the plight of the monarchs, as well as encouraging the creation of garden spaces that provide nectar plants and milkweed for the butterflies and their caterpillars to eat. On Sept. 19 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., the North Carolina Arboretum, in affiliation with the University of North Carolina and the nonprofit organization Monarch Rescue, will host its first annual “Monarch Butterfly Day,” dedicated to helping residents learn more about what they can do to help protect the monarchs.
The program will offer family-friendly, educational programs. Activities will include a monarch tag-and-release celebration, make-and-take milkweed seed bombs, face painting, crafts, educational presentations and a common milkweed plant sale, according to the press release from the organizers. In addition, attendees will have the opportunity to visit the Arboretum’s new “Monarch Waystation,” which is certified through the nonprofit Monarch Watch. The waystation features milkweed and nectar plants necessary for the butterfly’s life cycle. Jonathan Marchal, youth education manager at the Arboretum, states that he and other staff members “hope that Monarch Butterfly Day inspires attendees to contribute to this nationwide issue and help replenish the monarchs’ critical milkweed habitat.”
In addition to the event, the Arboretum plans to work with Monarch Watch, local schools and Boy Scout groups to create monarch waystations across Buncombe County. According the the Arboretum, these waystations will become a part of the Rosalyn Carter Butterfly Trail, an initiative of the former first lady that establishes a string of butterfly gardens from Plains, Georgia, to Washington, D.C.
The North Carolina Arboretum is not the only group in the area focusing its efforts on increasing the monarch population through education and the creation of waystations. The Haywood County Master Gardeners and the local nonprofit Monarch Rescue, are also leading efforts to re-establish certified Monarch feeding stations in WNC.
For more information on Monarch Butterfly Day events, activity locations and program times, visit www.ncarboretum.org. All programs are free, however the North Carolina Arboretum’s nonmember $12 parking fee still applies. Proceeds from the event will benefit Project EXPLORE, the Arboretum’s youth education initiative that engages teachers and students in hands-on citizen science at schoolyards.