Washington County Prepares For Monarch Butterfly Migration

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FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) -- Arkansas is one of the few states that monarch butterflies migrate through during the fall on their way to Mexico.

That is why Monarch waystations, which are areas where monarchs can find everything they need, have been set up around Washington County.

Master gardener Joyce Mendenhall said they are encouraging people to plant milkweed because it is the only host plant for monarchs. She said that due to habitat destruction, there isn't enough of the plant for the butterflies.

"It took away from all the plants that were here naturally and of course along the roadside there was a lot of milkweed and they keep that mowed, they mow it before it can even go to seed so we lost it there," Mendenhall said.

Monarchs lay their eggs on the milkweed plants. When the eggs hatch the caterpillars eat the plant, once they become large enough they turn into a chrysalis, then into a butterfly.

Butterfly nanny Gail Pianalto said they tag monarchs with round tags that have numbers on them. Once the monarchs migrate to Mexico, children log the numbers online so people can see if their monarch made it. Scientists use the information to see where, when and at what speed they travel.

Pianalto said they have yet to see one of their monarchs on the website.

"There is always hope that we will be able to see that our monarch has made it to Mexico," Pianalto said. "When you think how fragile their wings are and that a lot of them have made it from Maine all the way down to Mexico. So it`s interesting to see how far these beautiful creatures make it."

Mayor Sprouse and Mayor Jordan have both signed a pledge for monarchs through the National Wildlife Federation. They will take thirteen steps in encouraging habitat and conservation for the butterflies.

Master gardener Kitty Sanders said the pledge will also involve education on butterflies.

"It will involve outreach, it will involve helping people find the right kinds of milkweed to plant in their gardens as the host plant and then what nectar sources are good at different times of the year to help as the butterflies fly through," Sanders said.