Monarchs touring Central Florida find premiere accommodations in the backyard of Dolores Hale. She set up a protective tent and cultivates milkweed for the dining pleasure of colorful fluttering celebrities.
“I hand-wash aphids off the milkweed leaves every day so the butterflies will have enough to eat,” Hale said. Her painstaking efforts aren’t applauded by a large crowd. However, the regal beauty of the monarchs dancing around her zinnia garden testify to their appreciation.
“The monarch is the only butterfly species in the world to undertake a long-distance roundtrip migration,” according to University of Florida authors Rebecca G. Harvey et. al in the article, “Native Habitats for Monarch Butterflies in South Florida.”
Routes cross the United States from Canada to Mexico. In one zone, monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains travel to the Pacific coast of California. Another segment east of the Rocky Mountains “travels up to an astonishing 3,000 miles to central Mexico,” according to the Monarch Joint Venture.
Equally remarkable is that scientists determined the butterflies complete these complex journeys without benefit of guidance from an individual that crossed the previous year. “The fact that this is being undertaken by a paper-thin insect weighing less than one gram is truly a source of wonder,” Harvey et al. added in the UF article.
While scientists marvel at the improbability of monarchs’ flying feats, Hale pampers her guests. Some spas offer mud treatments, and Hale makes “puddles.”
“I take cow manure and mix it with water to form a puddle for the butterflies,” Hale said. “This provides them with many minerals they need.”
Unfortunately, changes in climate, increase in pesticides, and reduced habitat endanger the monarch. Anyone interested in learning how to establish home gardens like Hale can find resources in the links below.
“I love being outside and having butterflies flitting all around me,” Hale said. “Last year it was so warm, I had monarchs all over my yard in December.” Her quiet efforts help preserve the miracle of the monarchs for us to share.
“Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration” Jeremiah 8:7 NIV.
The Monarch Joint Venture provides facts about these fascinating butterflies at https://www.monarchjointventure.org/monarch-biology. The Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) is a partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, businesses and academic programs working together to protect the monarch migration across the United States.
The University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) published “Native Habitats for Monarch Butterflies in South Florida,” Publication UW311. Authors Rebecca G. Harvey, Patricia L. Howell, Carol Morgenstern, and Frank Mazzotti compiled detailed research for the monarch migration and other facts at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/UW311.
Scouts provide a great resource for making your own monarch butterfly habitat athttps://scoutlife.org/hobbies-projects/funstuff/168358/monarch-butterfly-habitat/.
Gardeners Supply offers a walk-in 4-foot by 4-foot crop cage for $85. This netting structure prevents birds and other animals from accessing the plants where monarchs lay eggs. https://www.gardeners.com/buy/crop-cage-4x4/8596538.htmlhttps://www.gardeners.com/buy/crop-cage-4x4/8596538.html