The following is a guest post from our outdoor conservation and stewardship specialist, Lauren Somogyi…

You might ask, what is a Monarch Waystation and why do we need one?

Well, to start, the monarch butterflies are currently on the path to extinction. Their populations have been declining for many years due to loss of habitat, insecticide and herbicide use, and intensive agriculture.

Monarch butterflies are considered an indicator species, which can help determine whether environments and ecosystems are healthy. If an indicator species population declines, it is possible that their specific living environment is also changing and something is wrong.

Also, while conserving the monarch butterflies, we help other pollinators as well, such as bees, by providing these native plant based habitats. Conserving these habitats can have a cascading effect to the conservation of the entire ecosystem.

So, now, why is having a Monarch Waystation important?

Creating a Monarch Waystation will help provide habitats for monarchs to breed, develop, and survive. The more areas that have these designated areas, filled with milkweed and other critical plants, the easier it is for monarchs to find areas to live.

A Monarch Waystation is an area that contains specific host and nectar plants critical to the survival of the monarch butterflies. These waystations are managed specifically to provide food, shelter, and habitat for monarch butterflies.

Following the guidelines provided by Monarch Watch, a nonprofit education, conservation, and research program, these waystations need to be at least 100 square feet and be exposed to six hours of a sun per day.

The plant criteria includes having at least 10 native host plants, made up of two or more species, as well as multiple native nectar plants. The host plants provide a location for butterflies to lay their eggs and are the sole food source for developing caterpillars, while the nectar plants provide food for the adult butterflies.

The main host plant for Monarchs is milkweed. Milkweed is the only type of plant that monarch caterpillars feed on when growing and developing. It is a critical plant to the monarch butterfly. By including these plants in waystations, abundance food sources are available to the monarchs.

How can I help?

Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana is offering multiple workshops next year for girls to come out and assist in developing our butterfly garden and Monarch Waystation.

We want girls to be able to learn about conservation techniques, specifically to the monarch butterflies, as well as engage them in hands-on gardening activities that will help them develop skills that they can take home.

We hope to provide fun and education workshops for girls to gain a better understanding of the environment around them and care for the Earth.

Let It Grow: Butterfly Buddies is open to girls in kindergarten through fifth grade. To learn more and to register, click here.

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