Monarch butterflies are invaluable in plant pollination throughout North and Central America. And they are in trouble. The milkweeds and nectar sources they feed on have been declining due to land development and the widespread use of herbicides in croplands, pastures and roadsides.
In the last 10 years, the migratory monarch butterfly population has decreased between 22 and 72 percent. In July 2022 they were added to the Endangered Species list maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (UCN).
MonarchWatch.org launched its Monarch Waystation Program to contribute to monarch conservation. The program encourages us all to create habitats and register them.
Dane County Parks has gotten involved with promoting monarch butterfly conservation locally. The Dane County Environmental Council is also helping public and private groups, such as Silverwood Park, with grants for environmental projects. That’s how Volunteer Nancy Moskal was encouraged to apply for Monarch Waystation status for Silverwood Park.
Nancy Moskal, Master Gardener, Bringer of Monarch Waystation
Nancy Moskal completed her training as a Master Gardener with the UW–Madison Extension in 1999. The program teaches how to care for plants and share those skills and knowledge with others. Volunteer service and continuing education are required of all Master Gardeners.
When Nancy was approached by a Dane County Extension agent in 2018 to get involved at Silverwood Park in a pollinator-protection program, she and fellow Master Gardener Ruth Flescher tapped Silverwood volunteer John Steines to help. “The three of us teamed up to plan the plantings for a small pollinator garden that the Dane County Environmental Council was willing to fund,” she said. “That was my first introduction. I had the pleasure of working with John, who knows so much about the land and the plants! And then we planted them.”
Since then, Nancy has taken the lead on maintaining the pollinator garden, while John works with the Wartmann Prairie, and Ruth teaches and gardens with the summer school students.
What does the Monarch Waystation Designation mean?
Milkweed and flowering plants are needed for a monarch habitat; adult monarchs feed on the nectar of many flowers, but they breed only where milkweeds are found. Having a monarch habitat certified as an official Monarch Waystation by Monarch Watch shows support for monarch conservation. Each habitat that earns the designation is included in the Monarch Waystation Registry, an online listing of Monarch Waystations worldwide. A sign will be displayed that conveys the monarch conservation message to all who visit.
Nancy proposed that the Friends of Silverwood Park apply for the Monarch Waystation designation and Barb Gausman responded. “Filling out the application was fun because we had so many good things we could report,” Nancy said. “We do a lot of things right at Silverwood—no use of insecticides, removing invasives, occasional prairie burns.” Over time, the right plants have grown in the right mix, thanks to the planning and maintenance efforts of John, Ruth, Barb, Nancy and others.
What can you learn from visiting Silverwood Park’s pollinator gardens?
Silverwood Park features over three acres of pollinator habitat distributed among its Wartmann Prairie, pollinator garden in the farmstead, and most recently, an additional pollinator garden designed and planted by students in the Edgerton Summer School program at the park in summer 2022.
Visiting the park is a great way to learn how to attract monarch butterflies and other pollinators to your own yard. By planting at least two milkweed species, as well as other nectar-rich plants, you can attract monarchs and other pollinators throughout the breeding season.
The first pollinator garden has now had four years to grow, meaning that it is now in need of some maintenance. “It’s become overgrown—it’s time to divide and share plants with the larger prairie. I can definitely use some volunteers this fall to help with that,” said Nancy. If you are interested in volunteering with Nancy this fall, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Sarah White
p.s. Join the Monarch Blitz! Participate in the 6th International Monarch Monitoring Blitz from July 29–August 7. Report your monarch and milkweed observations to Journey North. https://journeynorth.org/monarchs/news/spring-2002/07252022-join-monarch-blitz