by Marcia Tate
Master Gardeners in Haywood County are leading efforts to educate the public that monarchs butterflies are at high risk of being placed on the endangered species list. They are encouraging the public to plant milkweed in their gardens, as monarch caterpillars will only eat milkweed.
Four of the Haywood gardeners created a haven for monarchs in their home gardens, where the butterflies can find milkweed for their caterpillars, as well as nectar plants for the adult butterflies. The gardeners have also worked with three public locations to do likewise: the Canton Public Library, Junaluska Elementary School and Hazelwood Elementary School.
As part of a “Bring Back the Monarchs” grant from the University of Kansas, the Master Gardeners and Haywood County Public Library’s Canton branch created the first certified “Monarch Waystation” in Haywood County, in the library’s Giving Garden.
According to Chip Taylor, founder of Monarch Watch, waystations are critical to the survival of the monarch species because they provide much-needed pesticide-free nourishment and shelter to the monarchs in every stage of their lifecycle: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and adult. Certified monarch waystations must have milkweed and nectar plants that are native to the area, Taylor says. It is recommended that a waystation have a minimum of 10 milkweed plants, and include at least two different milkweed species. The mother monarch will only lay her eggs on milkweed, as it is the only food a monarch caterpillar will eat. For each milkweed, there should be 2-3 nectar plants, and those should represent the entire blooming season – early spring through fall. Also important is that no pesticide of any kind be used.
Interested gardeners can earn more about planting a certifiable waystation by attending a monarch program at the Canton Public Library on Tuesday, Sept 15, at 5:30 p.m. The program will begin with Master Gardener Jean White talking about the monarchs and their plight. This will be followed by Master Gardener Marcia Tate, who will discuss and show the library’s waystation itself, which is located directly behind the library. The session will explain how individuals can create their own waystations at home or in partnership with public places. More information is available at monarchwatch.org. For more information on the monarch program at the Canton Public Library, call (828) 648-2924.
Master Gardeners in Haywood County is not the only group in the area focusing its efforts on increasing the monarch population. The North Carolina Arboretum has also created a waystation and is holding its first annual Monarch Butterfly Day on Sept. 19 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Marcia Tate is a Haywood County Master Gardener.