Garden Club Building Island Habitat for Monarch Butterflies

Jul 19, 2017
Courtesy of: Long Beach Island Garden Club

“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” — Nathaniel Hawthorne

For nearly two decades, the monarch butterfly’s declining population has kept it somewhat out-of-sight on Long Beach Island and in danger of extinction. The Long Beach Island Garden Club is hoping to change the trend with an annual project aimed at bringing the butterflies back.

“The project is two-phased,” said Teresa Hagan, co-chair of the Bird and Wildlife Committee, which oversees the project. “The first and most important is education. Most of the public, like our members, may have noticed the decline, but had no idea why it was happening or what to do about it.”

The number one reason for the decline is climate change, Hagan said, noting the number two reason is the building of malls, housing complexes and large agricultural developments that disrupt migration routes. The third reason, the most hazardous of all, is the use of pesticides and herbicides.

To bring the monarchs back to the Island, the Garden Club wanted to do something. What they could or should do was the bigger question, Hagen said.

“We couldn’t plant vast fields of milkweed on a barrier island. But we could ask our friends and neighbors to try growing it in their backyards,” Hagan said. “This year we’ve placed 10 pots containing milkweed, the only plant the monarch will lay her eggs on, up and down the Island.”

On the north end of the Island the breeding stations are at Kubel’s in Barnegat Light and Scojo’s, Wally’s, Five O Six and the Long Beach Island Branch of the Ocean County Library, all in Surf City. On the other end of the Island, the pots are at the Beach Haven Public Library, Pearl Street Market and Kapler’s Pharmacy, all in Beach Haven; Farias Surf and Sport in Ship Bottom; and Gifted by the Sea in Brant Beach.

In addition to the milkweed, Hagan said, the pots also have the type of flowers whose nectar attracts breeding females.

“We’re hoping people will read the information sheet attached to each container and begin growing milkweed on their own or, at the very least, stop using herbicides and pesticides,” Hagan said.

She said next year the committee hopes to double the number of containers to alert more people.

“We feel education is our most important priority,” Hagan said.

Committee Co-chair Judie Alloway, Hagan and their volunteers will also plant a garden of milkweed in Barnegat Light, where it will have a better chance to thrive and spread in the hope of creating a breeding ground for the monarch butterfly.

The project doesn’t stop there. In the fall the Garden Club will began planting an organic herbicide- and pesticide-free milkweed garden on the north end of the Island.

“It will be a working model of what people can do in their own backyards. If enough of us do this, we’re hoping we can help reverse the decline,” she said.

 Gina G. Scala

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