Butterfly garden at PB Smith educates students
I am a junior at Fauquier High School and am active in the National Honor Society. I am also president of Future Business Leaders of America, and class treasurer for the Student Council Association. I have been a member of the varsity volleyball and tennis teams for the past three years and plan to continue to play. Additionally, I have been a girl scout for the past 11 years, and hope to attend Roanoke College and major in actuary science.
For my Girl Scout Gold Award Project called Milkweed for Monarchs, I built a butterfly garden at P.B. Smith Elementary School with the help of Mrs. Dennee’s 5th grade Ecology Club. The development of the garden began on April 20, 2017. The main purpose of my project was to help rebuild the monarch butterfly population in our community. The Ecology Club will maintain the garden for years to come and help track the monarch butterflies as they migrate each year.
Due to the lack of milkweed, caused by the use of herbicides and uncontrolled weather conditions, monarchs have limited places to stop for food during their migration journey from Canada to Mexico. This journey begins in October each year, and the monarchs return to Canada during the spring. The lack of milkweed in the United States has caused the monarch populations to dwindle; therefore, it is vital we take action to rebuild their population by planting milkweed both in our area and around the nation.
Monarch populations and those of many other helpful pollinators have dramatically declined over the past few years because of habitat loss. Specifically, monarchs require significant amounts of milkweed, in particular, to survive. There is a symbiotic relationship between the native milkweed plants and the butterflies. Monarchs lay eggs on milkweed and the leaves of small herbs such as parsley and carrots. The butterflies enjoy the nectar from the flowers and help pollinate the plants. The successful pollination allows milkweed to thrive and assists with further pollination and future generations of monarchs.
The Ecology Club will be responsible for the upkeep of the garden, and will track the number of chrysalises, caterpillars and adult monarch butterflies seen in or around the garden. Residents in the local community at large may also help monarchs by installing home butterfly gardens in their yards. With the increased food sources, monarchs may populate and flourish in our region again. Through my project I cultivated multiple types of milkweed including perennials such as swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), and common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). Additional plants were also established in the garden including one Pink Delight butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) to add color and beauty to the garden, and the parsley and carrots provide nutritious options for the monarch butterflies. The construction and installment of my garden ended on May 10, 2017, and in the months following the completion, it flourished beautifully. The ecology club spotted and tracked multiple adult monarchs along with caterpillars and chrysalises. My garden served as a rest stop on their migration, and this year and years to come will continue to serve the Monarch populations.
By establishing home butterfly gardens, your contribution not only impacts our community but the monarch population as well. This is a great spring activity to enjoy with your children not only now, but for years to come. These are the steps to building a beautiful backyard garden of your own. Choose a level area, close to a water source. Determine what size bed you would like to build, we built a 4ft by 8ft raised bed using ground contact rated pressure treated lumber. Install a weed control mat on the bottom of the raised bed to prevent weed infiltration. Before installment of the pre-assembled bed, cut the grass and till the dirt in your designated area with a metal rake. Install the bed, and secure it to the ground with 12 inch metal spikes. Calculate amount of garden soil needed in order to fill bed fully. Plant your seeds or plants in rows and water the bed regularly. Watch your garden flourish and keep an eye out for caterpillars, chrysalises and beautiful butterflies.
–By Keely “Kiki” Scott
All photos courtesy of Keely Kiki Scott.