Janey Boydston of A More Beautiful Muskogee talks about the project to help the monarch butterfly population.
Can you tell us a little more about A More Beautiful Muskogee?
"A More Beautiful Muskogee was founded over 30 years ago and is dedicated to making Muskogee a more beautiful city. Five general areas have been identified for focused efforts that include: trees and flowering shrubs, adopt a street or spot, litter control/clean-up, standards and enforcement, and neighborhood pride. Their efforts have included a variety of projects over the years that have gotten the community involved in cleanup, planting trees, anti-litter education and reviewing codes and regulations. Their latest project includes not only an opportunity to make Muskogee more beautiful but also a chance to help protect a species of butterfly and impact our environment."
What is the purpose of this project?
"The Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) population has dropped dramatically in the Central United States. It is indeed a complex miracle of nature, one not completely understood, that explains why the Monarch Butterfly migrates from their summer breeding grounds to overwintering locations. The Monarch is at risk for a number of reasons, including breeding habitat loss, overwintering habitat loss, climate change, pesticide use, and natural enemies like predation and disease. We are truly blessed here in Northeastern Oklahoma to be in the path of this migration. There are multiple reasons to conserve and support the butterfly. Monarchs are pollinators, meaning they help spread the seed necessary to support a balanced food web. They have been referred to as the “canary in the coal mine” for a world decline in pollinators and the ultimate negative effects on our environment. Perhaps just as important is the opportunity to study a species with such unique abilities. These tiny creatures travel for thousands of miles to unknown places. To survive, the Monarch relies on a diet of native milkweed and other nectar flowers. The Monarch uses the milkweed plant as the host for the larval stage, or caterpillars and they feed exclusively on milkweed leaves. By providing an additional source of this food for the butterflies we will be attracting and supporting growth in this important environmental link. "
How can attracting monarchs help the environment in Muskogee?
"Sometimes we fail to realize how impactful the efforts of a small group can be to make radical change. If every home or garden in Muskogee planted a milkweed plant, this primary food source for the Monarch butterfly would attract them in greater numbers to our homes during migration. Looking beyond the simple beauty this butterfly provides, using this project as a tool for modeling and teaching the children is a win-win for all. The metamorphosis of a butterfly as it emerges from the chrysalis is a miracle all should witness."
What kind of plants attract Monarchs?
"Monarchs love a plant called milkweed. But it is not a weed at all, it is a wildflower. They get their name because their sap is milky white and there are more than 100 species in the U.S. Milkweed is both a food source ad a host plant for monarch eggs that are laid on the underside of the leaves. In addition, there is a toxin in the milky sap they drink that makes both the caterpillar and the butterfly unappetizing to predators. Quite simply, Monarchs cannot survive without milkweed."
How can they help with the project?
"A More Beautiful Muskogee meets once a month at City Hall. It is open to the public, and all volunteers are appreciated. Contact Sam Fowler at (918) 682-7622 for more information about how to volunteer or to attend the meetings."
— Ronn Rowland