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.

Operation Monarch – A team of Eugene McDermott Library staff worked with the Office of Sustainability to enhance the Monarch Waystation, just east of the library, by planting butterfly-friendly food sources. Library staff includes: (Front: left to right) Chris Edwards, Liz Martin and Gary Cocke, Associate Director of Energy Conservation and Sustainability (Middle: left to right) Susan Fisher and Rachel Clark (Back: left to right) Ellen Safley, Cory Cornett, Debbie Montgomery, Tiffany Norris, Merry Trujillo, DeAnn Hegi and Craig Lewis, greenhouse landscape coordinator (Not pictured is Kreg Walvoord.)

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.

Milkweeds and nectar sources are declining due to development and the widespread use of herbicides in croplands, pastures and roadsides, resulting in a decrease in the monarch population. McDermott Library staff wanted to lend a hand and assist the Office of Sustainability help the butterflies.

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.

Butterflies are naturally more attracted to native plants than to most exotic plants. Staff planted several types of milkweed, as well as Turk’s caps, Lantana, Korean Hyssop, Blue Hyssop, Salvia, Yarrow and Enchinacea.

“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.

Library staff DeAnn Hegi (left) and Susan Fisher (right) celebrate the morning’s work. Butterflies: we’re ready for you!

Page Last Updated: May 17, 2018