Long Beach Island — Sixteen huge pots of milkweed and butterfly-friendly flowers were recently created by the Garden Club of LBI members.
Now in its third year, the project aims at increasing the numbers of monarch butterflies on the Island and raising public awareness of their dwindling numbers, said Gillian Rozicer, club publicity coordinator.
She said the large pots contain milkweed, the sole plant the monarch needs for feeding and breeding.
“Such flowers as marigolds, coneflowers and cosmos were added to attract them,” she said. “The planters were then distributed to businesses, libraries and members’ gardens. Instructions were included on how to raise caterpillars until they become butterflies and can be released.”
She said the scarcity of monarchs is notable and alarming.
“What was once a sea of black and orange beauties resting on LBI is now just a memory,” said Rozicer. “When I first came down here in the late 1970s, you’d see thousands of them. The number has decreased by as much as 90 percent due to the use of pesticides and the loss of habitats.”
LBI and other Jersey Shore points represent a stop-off point for monarchs during the fall as they migrate from the northeastern U.S. and Canada to Mexico for the winter, she said. “If we don’t have enough milkweed plants, there may not be enough fuel for the butterflies and they might not be able to make it to Mexico.”
In addition, the club has created an award-winning butterfly and pollinator garden at the pavilion in Barnegat Light. It is designed as an educational garden that will encourage homeowners to create their own habitats.
The club will also sponsor a free milkweed planting project for children at Barnegat Bay Day on July l0 at the Long Beach Island Foundation of Arts and Sciences in Loveladies.
Information on hand-raising monarchs and other projects are available on the club’s website, thegardencluboflbi.net.