Despite the theft of a donated tree and other items from their garden, the volunteers at the Knowlton Township Butterfly Garden have vowed to press on. Their mission is particularly urgent, as the monarch butterfly was declared an endangered species in July.
The garden was opened within Tunnel Field in 2017 as part of the Mayors for Monarchs program. The garden in an official stop for monarchs, designated as Way Station No. 18,240, said volunteer Melinda Woods.
The garden includes milkweed and flowers that provide nectar and nutrients to the monarchs and other butterflies as they migrate across thousands of miles. They travel from the northeast United States and Canada to Florida and Mexico in the late summer and early fall, Woods said.
“Several generations are born along the way,” Woods said.
Milkweeds are one of the few plant species that monarchs use to lay eggs. When the eggs hatch, the caterpillars that will morph into monarchs use the plants in the garden to find safe places to form their chrysalis, the web-like structure from which they will emerge as adult butterflies.
Woods and her regular volunteers, Linda Connelly and Mark Klouda, have been working to improve and expand the garden for five years. So it was particularly discouraging that somebody pulled a recently planted magnolia tree from the garden in early July. In addition, about a half-dozen walkway stones have disappeared recently.
“This is not a help-yourself place,” said volunteer Linda Connelly. “The volunteers have done a lot of work here.”
The magnolia tree was donated to the garden, Woods said.
Woods said the group will continue to expand the garden each of the next few years. They will add more milkweed plants and other butterfly-friendly flowers and plants.
The group also plans to raise awareness of the “Don’t Mow May” movement, which urges people to refrain from mowing their lawns during the month of May. By leaving lawns undisturbed for a few weeks in May, a friendly environment for pollenating insects is preserved.
This is important for butterflies and particularly bees, which have seen their numbers decrease dramatically in the past few years.
International Union for Conservation of Nature, which estimates that the species’ population has dropped between 20 percent and 90 percent during the past decades.
Depleted bee populations can have a devastating impact on agriculture, according to Bee City U.S.A., a non-profit group that urges individuals and local governments to take part in the program.
Earlier this year in Carlstadt, New Jersey, a resident was issued a citation for not mowing her lawn. When she approached the local governing body to explain her participation in Don’t Mow May—of which the council members were unaware—they responded enthusiastically, and agreed to dismiss the citation as well as explore ways the community can participate next spring.
More information about the butterfly garden can be found on their Facebook page under Knowlton Township Butterfly Garden.