Local Efforts to Support Monarch Butterfly Habitat


The Monarch butterfly has recently been classified as an endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, a leading authority on global biodiversity.  Late this summer, I developed a plan to help set the Monarch butterflies and other pollinator species on a firmer footing again with my Eagle Service Project.  My name is Giuseppe Tra, and I am a Manchester-Essex Regional High School senior.  Along with scouts from my local Scouts BSA Troop 3, some teammates from the high school soccer team and some other friends and family members, I set out to build a “Monarch meadow” in order to create more habitat for pollinating insects in the Manchester area.  It is a widely held consensus that the best thing the public can do to help Monarchs is to preserve and create appropriate habitat with native species, especially milkweed, which are necessary for the Monarch’s caterpillar stage of life. 

The first phase of the project involved research and planning.  I consulted with Katie Banks Hone on what kind of wildflower species to plant and where and how to plant.  Katie has a lot of expertise in recreating native habitats for pollinators.  Readers can find more information on her website http://themonarchgardener.com or visit her at her native plant farm stand in Hamilton.  I next met with Manchester's Conservation Administrator, Chris Bertoni, who offered enthusiastic support for the project and directed me to Cheryl Marshall, Director of the Parks and Recreation Department.  Cheryl worked diligently to help me select an appropriate site next to the pickleball courts on Summer Street.

Once the project was approved by all necessary authorities, we could finally begin the physical work of the project.  This started with the assembly of 800 seed balls, which took place at Troop 3’s Scout House on School Street.  We made the seed balls out of compost, air-drying clay, and an assortment of wildflower seeds, including milkweed seeds.  The benefit of the seed balls is to protect the seeds from being blown away or eaten by birds and also allowing the seeds to “cold stratify”over the winter and have a good start as soon as it is warm enough in the spring.  The next phase was to prepare a plot of land to create the “Monarch meadow.”  This involved removing over 800 square feet of sod so the wildflowers could have a good chance to grow without competition from established grasses and other plants.  After about 30 person-hours of effort from all of the volunteers, the sod was removed, and all that was left was to place down the seed balls, plant some butterfly weed seedlings (these are a type of milkweed) that were donated to the project and fence them in.  

Finally, I registered the site as an official Monarch Waystation with the Monarch Watch organization to raise awareness about the issue and so others can replicate it.  I went to the website and requested to be registered and purchased a sign that indicated that what was planted met certain requirements as a “Monarch meadow.”  Visitors can see the website address https://www.monarchwatch.org/waystations/ on the sign, and establish their own Monarch meadow in their backyard or neighborhood. 

I would like to thank all the volunteers who worked directly on the project, including Adrian Kuehnemund, Mason Moruzzi, Luke Donohoe, Cia Donohoe, Charlie Siems, Paul Coughlin, Ian Carlin, Gus Hall and adults Donald Hall, Maria Gillespie, Susan Costello, Tim Carter, Paige Donohoe and Kendra Olson-Fisher.  

The wildflowers chosen for this site are drought tolerant perennials or self-seeding annuals with a range of flowering times from April through November.  A few will start to flower next spring, but most will take longer to become established enough to flower.  Please pardon our appearance until then, but stop by to check on how the native meadow is doing and hopefully soon enough you will see a Monarch enjoying a meal of nectar, laying eggs, or emerging from its chrysalis.

butterflies, monarch butterfly, animal migration, conservation in the united states