Guest blog by Kelly Zheng
As many local gardeners already know, the monarch butterfly population has decreased by almost 90 percent in recent years. There is simply not enough food at each migration stop to sustain them.
The National Capital Area Council of Boy Scouts of America kicked off the Milkweed for Monarchs project this past Saturday. More than 500 people celebrated the start of the program at the U.S. National Arboretum. The project promotes building sustainable habitats for migrating monarch butterflies by planting milkweed.
Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation told the Boy Scouts that they were making a huge difference and “lighting a conservation fire across this country.” He continued by saying he will challenge all scout troops to follow their lead.
As part of the kick-off, scouts took a pledge to “help create a milkweed garden, care for the milkweed plants, allow any wildlife to thrive, take photographs or draw what is seen, educate the community, and have fun.”
Scouts received milkweed seeds to plant in their home gardens, as the first ceremonial planting of the spring. Environmental historian and author Lowell Baier helped water the potted seeds. He was the first Eagle Scout in Jasper County, Indiana.
The National Capital Area Council expects the program to expand and become an example to other organizations for conserving the butterfly population and creating interaction among the youth.
Milkweed is vital to the monarch’s survival. Make sure you protect existing milkweed in your gardens. If you don’t have any, plant some. Milkweed is easy to grow, as you can start them indoors and then transfer into a plot.
Milkweed is a perennial. Your plants will return the following year to help feed the next generation of monarch caterpillars. Despite the common name, Asclepias sp. is not a weed.
Take the pledge to receive a free seed package and limited edition conservation patch at: http://www.ncacbsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Milkweed-for-Monarchs-Pledge-Final.pdf
Hopefully with our efforts, milkweed will hit a peak population in the near future for the monarchs to bounce back.
About the Author
Kelly Zheng is a junior multiplatform journalism major, with a minor in technology entrepreneurship, at the University of Maryland, College Park. This spring semester, she is an editorial intern at Washington Gardener.