Migrating Butterflies Find Respite at Eugene McDermott Library Waystation
During their 3,000-mile epic journey from central Mexico to southern Canada, populations of magnificent migrating monarch butterflies have a beautiful place to flutter by on the east side of the Eugene McDermott Library—one of four certified Monarch Waystations on the UT Dallas campus—thanks to a conservation project called “Operation Monarch,” sponsored by the library and the UT Dallas Office of Sustainability
Dean of the McDermott Library Ellen Safley and a team of nearly a dozen library staff members took to the ground recently, and with the help of Facility Management’s Office of Sustainability staff enhanced the Monarch Waystation on the library’s east side by planting milkweed and a wide array of native nectar plants that monarchs need for survival.
Monarch populations are rapidly decreasing due to loss of habitat. Milkweed, once a plentiful native plant found in meadows, farms, gardens and roadsides, is in steep decline. Monarchs rely on milkweed to lay their eggs and as food for the young caterpillars. Experts believe Monarchs could become extinct if the supply of milkweed is not restored.
“We knew about the declining monarch population and wanted to support the Office of Sustainability in their efforts to help the butterflies,” said Dean Safley.
As part of Operation Monarch, library staff planted 20 butterfly-friendly plants at the waystation, which is located just outside the library facing parking lot E. Landscaping with certain native plants is a good way to attract butterflies, according to Gary Cocke, who just brought his love of the outdoors and his concern for the environment to UT Dallas in his new role as Associate Director of Energy Conservation and Sustainability.
“Birds and butterflies are naturally more attracted to native plants than to most exotic plants because over thousands of years our local insects and birds have evolved to depend on indigenous plants for their food and shelter,” Cocke said.
Besides milkweed, staff planted seven Turk’s caps, which produce beautiful bright red blooms, alongside the back wall of the library. “They’re really good for our region because they’re hardy and they do well in the Texas heat. They flower through the summer heat and into the fall,” Cocke said.
Other plants include Lantana, another eye-catching, colorful plant popular with butterflies, says Cocke, Korean Hyssop, Blue Hyssop, Salvia, Yarrow and Echinacea.
“It’s going to be a vibrant waystation with all the food sources that the monarchs need, but also an area with beauty and color for people to enjoy as they pass by,” Cocke said.
The monarchs travel thousands of miles from Canada, where they spend their summer months, to Mexico in the fall and make their return journey to Canada in the spring. Although their northbound trip usually occurs in April, Cocke said he has seen some monarchs in his yard recently. UT Dallas falls directly in their migratory path.
“The migration might be a little late this year because of the late cold snaps we experienced this year,” he said.
No matter when their voyage takes place, the weary travelers have a nice place to visit in Richardson, Texas.