As noted in a recent post here and widely discussed on various butterfly listservs, the emerging scientific consensus (especially here in the East) is that milkweed is not and really never has been a limiting factor for Monarch populations, and while it’s never a bad idea to plant milkweed for other pollinators, all the Monarch Waystations in the world are unlikely to improve populations of this iconic species. Partly that’s because Monarchs don’t usually hang around here in the mid-Atlantic during the summer when milkweed is blooming; they mostly pop out an early new generation here and head north. Our big Monarch surges are in the autumn, especially along the coast, where they take advantage of coastal breezes to float south without expending too much energy and, historically at least, tank up on seaside goldenrod and other fall nectar sources for the remainder of their journey.
It now seems that scarcity of these fall nectar sources on the coastal migration route may be reaching a critical point with East Coast Monarchs, owing to a combination of beach erosion, coastal development, and agricultural pressure. Denise Gibbs, an indefatigable champion of replenishing fall nectar sources, especially of seaside goldenrod, recently posted this volunteer opportunity:
>>Volunteers are needed to help plant for monarch butterflies and other pollinators at 8 Maryland state parks, WMAs, and NRMAs in key locations along the coastal and mountain migratory corridors. One planting event has already occurred at Cunningham Falls State Park, where high school students and other volunteers planted 1200 plugs of native fall-blooming nectar sources.
Assateague State Park, which is a critical stopover for fall coastal-migrating monarchs, is the next planting location. Seaside goldenrod, the species that fuels the fall monarch migration along the Delmarva coast, will be planted along with other native fall-blooming nectar sources. Please see the announcement below from MD-DNR invertebrate biologist, Jen Selfridge (formerly Jen Frye). Please contact Jen at email@example.com if you are able to volunteer to help plant. Keep in mind that you would be planting in sand and sandy loam, so digging small holes for plugs is not too strenuous. Having walked and surveyed these sites, I suggest that volunteers wear long pants and socks/shoes.
“Assateague State Park; Tuesday May 24th: The Park Manager will be able to have about 4 people from her crew devote the day (8am-4pm) to planting plugs at two sites – a half acre plot on the island near the Nature Center and a one acre plot on the mainland near the bridge in a “Grow, Don’t Mow” area that has a few existing desirable plants but could use a lot of TLC. This is a big area so our very ambitious plan is to put between 1200 and 2400 plugs in the ground that day. Needless to say, lots of help will be needed to pull this off.
Both sites are pretty and I guarantee baked goods and other snacks to share and ice cream on the way home for any interested parties. Volunteers would need to pack a lunch, drinks (I will also have extra drinks on hand), sunscreen, a hat/sunglasses and if desired, work gloves. We always have some extras on hand.”
Denise Gibbs, Monarch Conservation Specialist, monarchwatch.org <<