monarch basking in the sunshine.
Among butterflies, the monarch is the crown royal. With wings
resembling orange and black stained-glass windows, it hovers
lazily in our summer gardens. Come fall, it prepares for a
remarkable journey not performed by any other insect on earth.
Our goal this spring was to create a certified monarch way
station, a place of refuge for this dwindling insect species.
This type of way station is simply a botanical butterfly inn
designed to provide food, drink, rest and lodging.
Monarchs use way stations during their seasonal fall journey
south from eastern North America to the Transvolcanic Range
of central Mexico, where they overwinter in high-elevation
oyamel fir (Abies religiosa) forests. Similarly, the
butterflies frequent the way stations when they come north
Monarch Watch is a conservation program based at the University
of Kansas. Its goal is to establish 10,000 certified way stations
across North America. To date, 154 are registered in Canada
and 3,446 in the United States. This program encourages homeowners,
among others, to plant butterfly gardens to offset habitat
loss caused by development and urban sprawl.
"This migration is worth saving," says Dr. Chip
Taylor, biologist and director of the program. "To save
it, we have to pay attention to the habitat needs of this
It doesn't take a lot of space to create a mini-habitat for
butterflies. Even a window box of annuals will suffice. An
official monarch way station is more exacting. We created
our way station in an abandoned vegetable garden at our farm
in the Gatineau Hills, situated in west Quebec, Canada. Surrounded
by meadows and forests, and being pesticide and herbicide
free, it's an ideal location. Pesticides kill the monarch
caterpillars and adults. Herbicides kill the plants on which
they rely for food and lodging. Butterfly way stations must
be built without the use of chemicals. As some North American
cities move toward banning pesticides and other chemicals
from home gardens, the prospects for safe butterfly havens