The monarch butterfly population has declined over the last several decades, according to the Xerces Society, and local schools and the Glenn County UC Cooperative Extension are getting involved in a project that aims to do something about it.
According to the society, the monarch population has declined by an estimated 99.4 percent since the 1980s and in an effort to help the pollinator, the society created California Monarch Butterfly Breeding Habitat Plant Kits.
The local UC Cooperative Extension was awarded a kit back in June and received it recently.
The kit contains about 1,600 perennial transplants (valued at about $2,000) – most of which are plugs – half are milkweed plants and the other half are nonmilkweed nectar plants.
Donna Moore, a UC master gardener, said monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed plants and the nectar plants are for the parent butterflies as their food when they’re migrating.
The project involves planting and the caring for the plants in waystations.
She said the project is important because it provides the butterflies with food and breeding habitats.
Moore said that every little bit helps the monarch population and they’re terrific pollinators – about one out of every three bites of food is because of a pollinator, according to www.pollinator.org.
Moore said the milkweed and nectar plants were donated to Murdock Elementary School in Willows and Orland High School by the Xerces Society and Glenn County UC Master Gardeners for their Monarch Waystation and Breeding Habitat project. Moore said each school received between 600 and 800 plants.
“All of us needs to be involved in helping save the monarch butterflies,” Moore said. “School children love to learn new things and the more they know about the environment and saving endangered species, the better off we all are.”
Austin Weatherby, an Orland High School ag teacher with an emphasis in woodshop, said he heard about the project through his coteacher and the ag department so they decided to become a location for the waystations.
“We thought it was a good thing to promote and to try and save the pollinator,” Weatherby said. “... It gets students involved.”
He said students are doing a bulk of the work – he teaches agricultural woodshop and the students are expected to work on the farm and do agricultural assignments.
There is a committee of five or six students that are responsible for designing the layout of the garden, implementing it and making sure it happens correctly.
Weatherby said it’s going to be kind of a slow process as they were getting the plants in the ground last week and will be working on making it pretty and adding things like pathways. The goal is to have it done by May or June.
Rosie Manner, a junior at Orland High and one of the committee chairs, said this is her first year in Future Farmers of America and wanted to get involved in the project.
“You can go outside and have fun,” she said. “... Butterflies are really cool and I think they’ll come … I think it’s a good way to have Orland High represented showing more of our agricultural side.”
Weatherby said there are a couple of hoses with sprinklers that will be watering the plants until they’re rooted well and then go down to once a day and after about six months to a year, they’ll go down to watering as needed.
After that, he said, it’ll be mainly some routine weeding and replacing plants if they die.
“I think it’s really cool for them to know the impact they’re making not only on the environment but understanding that people have donated all of this stuff to us,” Weatherby said. “... I’m also hoping that students learn to appreciate the planting and the process of landscaping and making sure something looks nice.”
A representative from Murdock Elementary School was not available for comment prior to publication.