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Who Wants to Save the Monarchs? We do!

Native to North and South America, the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) was once found wherever milkweed grew. But milkweed fumigation programs and urban spread have reduced its critical food source, and today, the species is diminishing in population.

The Eastern Monarchs that we enjoy in New York state annually migrate 3,000 miles to the mountains of Central Mexico starting in late summer. The butterflies require sustenance to survive this epic journey. To help them, the global Monarch Waystation Project was started in 1992. As of now, program volunteers have built more than 42,000 waystations across the US and in eight other countries, tagged more than 2 million migrating Monarchs and distributed more than 1 million milkweed plants.

This summer the South Midwood Pollinators (SMP) will join their ranks by hosting Monarchs in their yards and gardens. Among the waystation participants are Zoe Timms, who proposed and organized the project, and Helen Englehardt, who witnessed the Monarch migration in Mexico. Zoe and Helen shared their thoughts about Monarchs and our own Waystation project.

Committed to Monarchs

For Zoe, the Waystation project aligns with the Pollinators’ mission by “bringing neighbors together to support the biodiversity of our neighborhood, while forming easy models that others can easily do in their own garden and community and having fun outdoors!”

What awakened you to the plight of the Monarchs? - After putting the first native species—milkweeds and some nectar plants--in our garden, my heart would stop when I saw a beautiful Monarch. I knew their numbers were declining, and I think their visits, combined with my growing understanding of the importance of native plants in providing nourishment and habitat for pollinators, pushed me to want to support them.

What led you to propose the Monarch Waystation Project? I’ve always been inspired by the way our SMP projects draw neighbors together to support our local eco-system. The Pollinators demonstrate that lawn by lawn, small garden by small garden, plot by plot, we can support our environment and build a stronger community while doing so!

What’s the potential environmental impact of making South Midwood a waystation for the migrating Monarchs? So far, about 25 neighbors are planting milkweed and nectar plants to create the South Midwood Monarch Waystation. As these plants establish themselves, we will greatly increase habitat and nourishment for the Monarchs and other pollinators. Just as important, we will have created a model that any neighborhood can copy. The impact will be multiplied!

What is your personal goal for the project? My personal garden goal is to fill our sidewalk strip, garden or any pot with native pollinators, so that hummingbirds, lightening bugs, butterflies, and other pollinators will join the Monarchs. My children really want a few bats to visit too!

To Mexico with the Monarchs

Helen Englehardt, a South Midwood resident since 1980, is a life-long environmentalist and an avid gardener. She says her garden evolved from grass, which is an English tradition, to plants. Through the South Midwood Newsletter and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, “I began learning what to do, making major and minor mistakes along the way, and I’m still making mistakes, but I have a lovely garden.”

Why did you decide to make a trip to observe the Monarch migration? I received a pamphlet about the Kingdom of the Monarchs tour, which was organized by two ecologically sensitive organizations: WWF and Natural Habitat. We went to the Transverse Volcanic Belt Mountains, west of Mexico City, to the fir tree forests in the protected bio-sanctuaries of El Rosario.

What was your favorite experience of the trip? Sitting alone, half-way up the mountain in a sunny glade with butterflies flying all around me. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to climb to the mountain top because the elevation was over 10,000 feet and required a bus, horses, and hiking to where the monarchs were still clustered. Every step was an effort, but worth it. I was completely alone, surrounded by “flying flowers.” The Monarchs were totally unaware of me. There they are and I’m with them…just me. It was wonderful.

Helen was thrilled to learn about the Monarch Waystation Project because the South Midwood Pollinators share her goal of goals feeding the butterflies and bees. “Flowers are in dialogue with the pollinators. The plants have figured it all out, so we should help them.”

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