When Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, “How do I love thee, let me count the ways…” she probably wasn’t thinking about monarch butterflies. But The Elizabethan Gardens in Moyock, North Carolina, is all about loving monarchs. The staff of the John White Butterfly Center is working diligently to make their actions count knowing that monarchs have seen dramatic declines in recent years.
Early reports claim a 53 percent decline from last year’s downward numbers. That’s why The Gardens feels it’s an important part of their mission to educate and do what they can to help the beautiful creatures.
At their weekly butterfly releases, guests learn about monarch habitat and preservation. “We hope that the personal connection they make when they release a monarch connects them in a special way,” said Carl V. Curnutte, executive director. “And with the information and guidance we give them, we hope guests will be personally invested to join our efforts to help monarchs in a very few simple and valuable ways.”
The Gardens educates their guests about the unique and important relationship monarchs have with milkweed, their sole host plant. As farms, suburbs, cities, and parks were created,
milkweeds were considered a weed and removed. “Sadly, if there are no milkweeds, there can be no monarchs,” says Daniel Hossack, gardens manager.
According to Hossack, five different species and over 60 milkweed plants were featured in and around the John White Butterfly Center and gardens this year. Additionally, these varieties of milkweed plants were available as seeds and plants for guests to purchase for their home gardens. To date The Elizabethan Gardens sold over 100 milkweed plants.Experts say one four-foot plant can feed about five monarch caterpillars. So potentially, The Gardens have assisted in giving habitat to over 500 monarchs.
Hossack adds, “Another way we show our love of Monarchs is to choose organic ways of gardening instead of using pesticides when possible.”
And The Elizabethan Gardens has seen fruits of their efforts too! The Monarchs they released have produce several offspring. Most likely a good sign that The Elizabethan Gardens is doing their part and showing a little love to Monarchs.
It’s interesting to consider that while most people are aware of the migration of these iconic butterflies, their lifespan is often unclear. It’s actually the 4th or 5th generation that survive to migrate. The first three or so generations of monarchs only have a 2-6 week life span. The latter generations, called the “Methuselah Generation” will migrate to Mexico and live 4-6 months.
And the cycle continues—thanks to the help from butterfly lovers everywhere!
The Elizabethan Gardens’ staff hopes you will join them in their efforts to help preserve monarchs. For more information about milkweeds and monarchs, visit: www.saveourmonarchs.org or The National Wildlife Federation: www.nwf.org. To inquire about milkweeds at The Elizabethan Gardens, call 252-473-3234 or visit elizabethangardens.org.