ORANGE PARK – Monarch butterflies take an average of two weeks to emerge from their cocoons. The new Orange Park Monarch Waystation, officially named the Monarch Byway, took quite a bit longer than …
ORANGE PARK – Monarch butterflies take an average of two weeks to emerge from their cocoons. The new Orange Park Monarch Waystation, officially named the Monarch Byway, took quite a bit longer than two weeks to finally emerge from its own cocoon however. The process ultimately took a little over two years.
The process of establishing a Monarch Waystation in Orange Park began in May 2016 when Carolyn Warren was elected chairman for the project by her peers in the Garden Club of Orange Park. Her committee got to work and built and planted the waystation area at 1820 Smith St. in June and July, only to be destroyed by Hurricane Hermine in August before the committee could apply for certification from Monarch Watch, a network of students, teachers, volunteers and researchers dedicated to the study of the Monarch butterfly.
Not to be deterred, Warren’s committee replanted the area throughout May and June 2017 and applied for certification, which Monarch Watch approved a month later. Excited and prepared, Warren planned a dedication ceremony for that September. However, Mother Nature had other plans once again as Hurricane Irma destroyed the waystation in early September, just before a planned dedication ceremony.
The third time proved to be the charm for the waystation this year. Warren and her husband Bob planted the area in May 2018 where they took advantage of the heavy rainfall. The certification obtained in 2017 was still good so all that was left was to schedule a public dedication. Tropical Storm Alberto made its presence known early this year but the waystation was spared any damage this time around and the Orange Park Monarch Byway was officially dedicated on June 28.
A monarch waystation contains everything monarch butterflies need to sustain their migration and produce future generations of butterflies. The most important plant at these waystations is milkweed. Monarch butterfly caterpillars only eat milkweed, which provides necessary nutrients that help them lay their eggs. There are also a multitude of nectar-providing flowers at these waystations that help sustain the butterflies.
The reason these waystations are needed is because of the annual migration of monarch butterflies. In the spring of every year, hundreds of millions of monarchs migrate from their overwintering sites in Mexico and Southern California to different sites throughout the United States and Canada.
Every fall, hundreds of millions of butterflies make the return trip to those overwintering sites in Mexico and Southern California. Without the milkweed and the nectar from the flowers, the butterflies would not have the energy to make the trip and due to habitat destruction, the waystations are quickly becoming the main source of those plants for the butterflies.
Without milkweed, which is viewed by many as simply a pest plant, the monarch butterfly would have nowhere to lay its eggs and would quickly face extinction.
The Orange Park Monarch Byway is now officially part of a global conservation effort and the members of the Orange Park Garden Club hope it attracts plenty of butterflies for Orange Park residents to enjoy.
Warren finished the dedication with a butterfly blessing that captures the vision they have for the waystation.
“May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun and find your shoulder to light on, to bring you luck, happiness and riches today, tomorrow and beyond.”