Butterflies are not just beautiful insects with delicate, colorful wings, they are important pollinators of fruit trees and vegetable gardens.
Unfortunately butterflies are being depleted at an alarming rate (nearly a billion over the last 25 years, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) due to loss of habitat, and herbicide and pesticide use.
But there is hope, in the form of Monarch City USA, for the monarch butterflies in the Deland and New Smyrna Beach areas, and expanding to more areas as garden enthusiasts plant more butterfly-friendly plants.
The New Smyrna Beach and Edgewater Men’s Garden Club is in the midst of certifying neighborhood and residential gardens as monarch friendly. New Smyrna Beach was the second city in Florida to become a Monarch City USA city, after Deland.
The Deland Garden Club’s certification began when a few people, including Karen Hall and John Hatfield, got together and approached the city about a Monarch City USA designation. The first garden they did was the century garden at the Bill Dreggers Park in Deland. Now there are 114 certified Deland gardens.
While New Smyrna Beach is already certified as a Monarch City USA, the New Smyrna Beach men’s and women’s garden clubs are working on certifying more neighborhood and residential gardens of all sizes as monarch friendly.
“It’s a win-win for gardeners, for the endangered butterflies and for our initiative,” said Skip Bednarczyk, a Men's Garden Club member.
“We need to do more for the butterflies,” added Jim West, another member.
Mr. West comes from a long line of gardeners. His uncle, Walter West, was a gardener for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and his wife, Marjorie Cooley, had a vegetable garden, he said. His grandmother owned a flower shop. Mr. West has had a long-time interest in butterflies, as a Deland high school teacher in special education. His students, ADD and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder), needed something extra to do.
“Let’s go out and dig in the dirt,” he told them. That started a butterfly garden, and raising monarch butterflies in the classroom.
After seven years, he moved to Tallahassee and taught horticulture and Lepidoptera (that’s scaly wings, such as butterflies and moths) in high school. Now retired, he teaches seminars for garden clubs and designs butterfly gardens. He also travels a lot, “chasing butterflies,” he said.
He has been a volunteer for more than 25 years, tagging butterflies. (Tags are available from monarchwatch.org)
Monarch City USA came into being to promote education and development of public and private gardens. Faith Miller, public works director for New Smyrna Beach, is working with local clubs to get people to build gardens.
The Men’s Garden Club will be at the New Smyrna Beach Springfest from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 6, at Canal and Live Oak streets with information on residential monarch certification.
To become a certified monarch butterfly sanctuary, participants must have a minimum of 20 nectar food plants, three of which are host/larval plants, which includes five milkweed plants, as they are the primary host plants for the monarchs. Nectar food plants include penta, salvia, porterweed, plumbago, buddleia, beach sunflower, lantana, bottlebrush and firebush. Larval food plants include milkweed, passion vine, cassia, parsley, dill and fennel. The brighter the color in the garden, the more butterflies will visit, according to the garden club.
Applications to become a certified monarch butterfly sanctuary will be reviewed and the New Smyrna Beach men’s and women’s garden’s clubs will be in touch with participants. (Deadline for submission is April 30. Participants will have the option of buying a Certified Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary sign for $25.) More information on certification or the garden clubs is available by calling Mr. West at (850) 320-2935 or Sookie Smith, president of the NSB Women’s Garden Club at (386) 847-4374.
The men’s garden club of NSB also will have their annual plant sale fundraiser from 8 am. to noon Saturday, April 13, on Live Oak Street by the museum. Many monarch-certified plants will be offered for sale.