SMITHVILLE, Mo.,— The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Smithville Lake received a grant from Monarch Watch to benefit pollinators such as butterflies and bees.
Monarch butterfly populations have decreased by 90 percent due to loss of habitat and nectar sources. Milkweed, the sole food source for Monarch butterfly larvae, has diminished drastically in the United States due to mowing and herbicide use, especially along roadways and agricultural land.
“Smithville Lake is perfectly positioned along the I-35 corridor which is the eastern migratory route for Monarch butterflies to their overwintering ground in central Mexico. They travel over 2,000 miles to migrate,” says Jaime Picken, U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s Smithville Lake park ranger.
To support pollinators, the Monarch Watch grant awarded Smithville Lake with nearly 350 milkweed plants. Smithville Lake staff, along with a handful of local volunteers, began planting the milkweed plugs in May.
“Through this grant we received three varieties of milkweed. We also planted a number of native wildflowers to attract additional pollinators such as honeybees and humming birds,” says Picken. “Honeybees are responsible for one-third of the food we eat. We want to provide an area of native plants for these valuable insects.”
The planting site is located directly behind the Jerry Litton Visitor Center. It is near a gravel pedestrian trail and the Corps plans to add interpretative signage at the location. Once the plants are established, Smithville Lake visitors should have a variety of resident pollinators to view in addition to providing a refueling point for Monarch butterflies along their migration route.
“We hope this project will provide abundant food sources for Monarch caterpillars as well as a number of nectar sources for pollinators to include migrating adult Monarch butterflies,” adds Picken. “At the same time, we hope the visiting public will enjoy viewing the area and can learn what a valuable role pollinators play in our day to day lives.”
To learn more about Monarch Watch, visit http://www.monarchwatch.org/.