Group of individuals posing in green field
Group of individuals posing in green field

NPCA PLANTING FOUR MONARCH/POLLINATOR GARDENS

June 1, 2016 - Lincoln, ON - In the 2013/14 breeding season, it is believed that Monarch butterfly populations were the lowest in 20 years. The cause of their rapid decline is attributed to illegal logging in Mexico, a lack of milkweed plants, and climate change.

Domenic ‘Mickey’ DiFruscio, a Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) board member since 1993, put forth a motion at the March 2016 Board of Directors meeting to have a ‘Monarch garden’ planted at Ball’s Falls Conservation Area. He also committed to supplying the plants needed for the project.

Monarch’s lay their eggs exclusively on the leaves of milkweed plants, which were removed from the schedule of noxious weeds in Ontario in 2014 through changes to the Weed Control Act. Milkweed can be poisonous to livestock. However, it is the sole food source and host plant for Monarch caterpillars. It’s control and removal while being classified as a noxious weed has reduced their habitat.

On Thursday, May 26, DiFruscio was accompanied by his family, volunteers, and Chair of the NPCA Board of Directors, Bruce Timms, to plant several milkweed plants in a newly established pollinator garden.

“Monarchs are a beautiful creature, and it’s important that we ensure they have the proper habitat to thrive,” stated DiFruscio. “I have been collecting milkweed seed and growing the plants every year. I believe that we all have a responsibility to help out the Monarch before they’re all gone.”

“Mickey is the longest serving Board Member, and his passion for the health of the watershed is what has drawn him in and retained him as a valuable member of our team,” stated Timms. “Projects like this are why we are passionate about what we do at the NPCA. We believe that positive actions, no matter how small, can have a great impact on our watershed.”

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry have listed the Monarch as “Special Concern” on the list of species at risk. This listing means the species lives in the wild in Ontario, is not endangered or threatened, but may become threatened or endangered due to a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.

The NPCA will be planting three more pollinator gardens this summer, which will include milkweed to help support the Monarch’s rebound. The first will be on June 12, 2016, at Stevensville Conservation Area as part of the Bert Miller Nature Club’s Butterfly & Pollinator Festival. Members from local Scouts Canada groups will be volunteering to help with the planting of native plants.

There are plans to plant milkweed at Smith-Ness and St. Johns Conservation Areas later this year. Funding for the pollinator gardens has been provided to the NPCA by the Ontario Community Environment Fund. Those interested in assisting in planting, watering, or ongoing maintenance of the plantings can contact NPCA’s Community Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator, Kerry Royer at kroyer@npca.ca.