What is it about butterflies that we love? Their colors and patterns are striking, it’s how they fly elegantly in the air, drink nectar from colorful flowers, and how they surprise us by appearing from nowhere. Not only do they bring a lot of joy, pollinators are an important part of our ecosystem. They pollinate flowers and food, and they are the building blocks of the food chain. Our complete food chain depends on these creatures.
Our pollinators are largely butterflies and bees, but also include other insects, moths, and bats. The abundant use of pesticides and loss of habitat has caused pollinator populations to decline rapidly. This decline has even created the need to pollinate food ourselves by hand! This is currently being done in China, but we are not too far from this in the States.
Habitat loss includes that due to agriculture and development. Farms are mostly vast monoculture landscapes where nothing else may grow except for one or two crops. Some of these crops are wind pollinated where they manage to develop food without pollinators.
Every year almond farms in California have bees shipped in on semi-trucks so they can pollinate the almond fields. After the blooms are gone from the trees, the bees have to be shipped out because the land then becomes a food desert for them. On top of this, the strips of land along these farms are left to be mowed lawn grass, which again provides no habitat.
What kind of habitat do pollinators need? They need flower nectar and pollen from native plants, plants that hosts as food for their caterpillars, a bit of water, and places for them to nest. There is hope in sight for pollinators. The duty to save our pollinators has been placed largely on the homeowner and business owner. So what can we do? It’s simple as planting native flowers and trees, gardening organically, discontinuing use of pesticides (especially those on lawns), and creating the habitat pollinators and birds need.
You may have heard the story about the Monarch Butterfly. The Monarch is an icon of all butterflies and it’s the only known butterfly that has a two way migration. Its populations are now threatened and overall, keep declining each year. The drop in population is largely due to habitat loss. The adult Monarch can only survive on nectar, and the Monarch caterpillar can only survive on the specific plant, milkweed, which is called its host plant.
Monarchs need milkweed to keep their populations going. When so much of our unpaved land is used for agriculture, mowed, and overrun by invasive plants, there is little left for native plants like milkweed to grow.
A Monarch Waystation, is a ‘rest stop’ for Monarchs. People across the United States are putting specific plants in their gardens, including the milkweed, to provide habitat for the Monarchs, other pollinators, and birds. You can have your own garden become a certified Monarch Waystation as long as the garden meets certain requirements. After certification, your garden is put on a list and you can receive a sign to put up in your garden. The sign is a great way to educate others on the garden’s purpose and to spread the word about pollinators!
It’s also a lot of fun to see your Monarch Waystation develop as it goes from a thought out plan, to being installed, and then to grow overtime. You get to see what comes to your garden as you find new species of butterflies and birds visting. You begin seeing how caterpillars and butterflies use your garden as a habitat! Your garden goes from a living sculture garden to an interactive place full of life. It leaves you with a new perspective and the excitment of doing something beneficial for life.
Having a Monarch Waystation is especially fun for kids and with a community garden. A Monarch Waystation can be put anywhere as long as it meets certain requiements based on number and types of plants, that it provides habitat, and you practice sustainable gardening. A pollinator garden can also be beautiful and fit in with your style and taste. It does not have to look like a wild garden, native plants can be adapted to fit in with all styles from cottage chic to modern as long as there is a designed plan.
EARTHeim Landscape Design Studio provides specializes in native plants and creating wildlife and pollinator gardens. We can help you turn your home or community space into a certified Monarch Waystation in Lexington, Kentucky and surrounding areas.