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You have worked your whole life and finally retire and at first you stay busy. Out to lunch with buddies, get a little exercise, play cards with friends and neighbors, travel a little. But after awhile you still find you have time on your hands. So here’s an idea…how about doing some research on helping the planet by planting a butterfly garden!
A few years ago the Breeze-Courier interviewed local Sally Brusveen who has learned all about the fate of the Monarch butterflies. When Sally moved back to Taylorville after retiring from teaching in the Naperville area schools for 30 plus years, she returned to the farm she grew up on. She soon realized changes had occurred through the years and one was lack of wild flowers, native plants and milkweed. She started thinking “Gosh…I have all this open space…how can I use it to benefit endangered insects? Monarchs are an easy start and she found out through the journey how other species can benefit from a natural habitat too.
The Monarch butterfly is the state insect and unfortunately is facing a crisis. The yearly count of monarchs decreased by 53% in 2019 from the following year according to Kelly Allsup, University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator. Allsup states “the decrease in the Monarch population over time can be attributed specifically to a lack of milkweed for larvae. Milkweed is the only plant that Monarchs will lay eggs on, and it is the sole food source for Monarch larvae when eggs hatch.” Unfortunately milkweed is very scarce for various rea- sons. Herbicide application and increased mowing in roadside ditches is eradicat- ing milkweed habitat from rural areas.
So Brusveen planned out a flower garden in the wind break and started planting native flowers, pollinator friendly plants and milkweed and adds to it yearly. After studying and understanding the Monarch crisis, she has become more aware of the lack of natural habitats for many other species as well. Sally gathers eggs and raises and releases between 75 to 100 butterflies a season, and I might add, her enthusiasm is contagious so she has enlisted some friends to start raising also. “Like all insects, Monarchs have a role in our ecosystem.” She adds “and life without them would not be as beautiful.” Monarchs are not the most efficient pollinators but they can and do pollinate some wild flowers. “Learning to attract butterflies is a great hobby and a great start to learning more about the environment.” replies Sally. There are so many different plants that attract other pollinators like bees, moths, and other butterfly species etc. Pollinator gardens support and maintain pollinators by supplying food in the form of pollen and nectar that will ensure that these important butterflies, insects and animals stay in the area to keep pollinating our crops for continual fruit and vegetable production.
So this winter gather some information and design an area no matter how big or small, that is easy to main- tain, that will bring you joy and will help with wild life. Plant with a purpose to help butterflies, birds, people and the planet. And while you are dreaming about spring, think about the knowledge you will gain from planting a few wild flowers and milk- weed. Before you know it, you will be witnessing the life cycles of a Monarch and the importance of saving the planet, one flower at a time.
“Happiness is like a butterfly. The more you chase it, the more it will evade you, but if you notice the other things, it will gently come and sit on your shoulder.”
Henry David Thoreau