The iconic Monarch butterfly! We all know and love them, but how can we help them? Their population has decreased a low 90% over the past 20 years; they need our help! You can create a perfect certified Monarch waystation in your very own backyard. Here’s how I did.
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What’s a certified Monarch waystation?
First of all, there are no size rules. Any little bit of property helps the Monarch reproduce and thrive! So if your yard is small, that’s okay!
A certified Monarch waystation is simply an area you’ve designated to help these butterflies. (The link is below to register!)
This area will have proper food, shelter, sun, and your loving attention in making sure it’s safe. That’s it!
To realize you are making a significant impact for Monarch conservation is really a fantastic feeling. MONARCHS NEED OUR HELP!
Also, realize that you are making it a better world for many beneficial pollinators in creating a certified Monarch waystation. So let’s get started!
1. Plant milkweed!
Without milkweed, we would have no Monarchs.
Our beautiful orange butterfly lays her eggs exclusively on the milkweed plant, as it’s the only host plant for Monarch caterpillars.
Contrary to anything negative you may have heard about this valuable plant, it’s actually a considerable life force to many beneficial insects, who rely on the entire plant.
Butterflies love the flowers, and so do hummingbirds.
Just make sure you get whatever variety of milkweed that’s native to your area for the most beneficial outcome. Granted, you can try other types, but those native to where you live just do better.
Also, milkweed is not invasive. Common milkweed is the only type that will come up quickly in areas where it wasn’t planted. This is because it also grows by underground rhizomes.
If this variety comes up where you don’t want it, simply transplant it or give it away!
FUN FACT: Common milkweed flowers smell like lilacs!
2. Zero pesticides!
Oh, how I hate pesticides! I truly do! I understand infestations and farmers trying to save their crops. I appreciate foods in my grocery store without insects.
But wow, it will kill everything!
It’s so harmful and destructive! It can even kill birds or other small critters who may eat the infected insects; so horrible!
Caterpillars are extra sensitive to chemicals as they have no protective coating at all on their body.
Any form of pesticide will kill them all, regardless of how “safe” a label deems its poison.
I can guarantee you’ll see a form of magic performed on your property a few months after you stop using pesticides.
- Beneficial insects will start doing their job because they won’t be getting killed along with your “pests.” Then birds will move in and eat way more than before (when they were avoiding your area).
- You’ll NATURALLY find noticeably fewer pests… honestly! It’s incredible!
I promise there are safer ways to protect your prized flowers, veggies, and fruits. If you want a certified Monarch waystation, you must forego these awful chemicals!
3. Make your yard chemical-free
This totally piggybacks #2!
Fungicides, herbicides, and all other chemicals will only eventually cause pest infestations because of the imbalance.
It does no good at all, maybe only temporarily in our eyes on the surface.
What it’s actually doing is destroying everything in its path! Again I can promise you that when nature is trusted to do it’s job, it does!
Yes, you’ll have weeds, but you can pull those or find other ways to remove them.
If you use herbicides, it can travel underground to nearby plants. If these plants are your milkweed, the caterpillars will still eat the leaves.
They could then have neurological issues preventing them from becoming a butterfly or die.
Seriously, please do the entire natural world a huge favor and stop using chemicals of all kinds!
There are obviously many more reasons not to use them. And if you want a successful certified Monarch waystation, you’ll want to steer clear.
4. Add nectar flowers
What’s a nectar flower? Basically, a flower that provides nectar for pollinators.
This tip might be your favorite one to implement because it adds beauty to your entire yard! This benefits the Monarch and other butterflies, moths, bees, hummingbirds, and so much more.
Having gorgeous nectar flowers for food will cause more butterflies to come into your yard and more Monarchs to lay eggs on your precious milkweed.
Some Monarch favorites include:
- Non-invasive butterfly bush
- Mexican sunflower
- Blazing meadow star
- Purple coneflower
I’m sure you’ve seen them on others, and so have I. These are just some favorites to get you started!
5. Provide shelter
Having a couple of coneflowers out in the middle of your yard might be pretty. But it’s not reliable for your certified Monarch waystation.
An open area like that only invites predators and weather to harm your butterflies and caterpillars.
So how to provide a butterfly shelter?
- Having favorite flowers in clusters or clumps allows the butterfly to hide within the flowers.
- Have all varieties of flowers or bushes close together, but not crowded.
- Have some plants and flowers near a large tree or against a house or building.
- Even having plants against a deck or fence can provide shelter.
This also is directed to where you plant your milkweed. Remember, the Monarch caterpillar will usually crawl off the plant to find a place to make its chrysalis.
If there’s a deck or other plants nearby, it’s easier for the caterpillars to find a safe place to become a gorgeous butterfly!
I have seen them make chrysalis on a milkweed plant’s bottom leaf, but this isn’t common. Having a nearby shelter is so important.
FUN FACT: A Monarch caterpillar can travel as much as 11 yards to pupate!
6. Manage your waystation
You’ve made your yard perfect for Monarchs; now what? What do you need to do to have a successful certified Monarch waystation?
Watch over it, love it, take care of it like you would any baby! 🙂
Your plans to sustain your certified monarch waystation should be the same as any other flower bed or garden.
Your duties should include:
- Adding mulch or organic material
- Checking daily for diseased plants or abnormal infestations
- Removing invasive, non-native plants
You may also want to check for diseased Monarch caterpillars or chrysalises. Some people choose to euthanize these by placing them in a freezer or, hate to even say it, quickly squash them. This is so the disease doesn’t spread.
Thankfully I’ve never had to do this.
I personally love taking care of my flowers and plants. It’s a treat for me and brings me peace.
7. Native is important!
Any article on sustaining any wildlife wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the importance of native plants.
I discussed in tip #1 why native milkweed is best, but it’s also best for all flowers, bushes, trees, and plants.
This is because it benefits our local wildlife the best for different reasons.
This is not to say that I don’t have some non-native plants on my property. I do. I have the beautiful non-spreading butterfly bush that I would never want to be without because butterflies and hummingbirds flock to it.
I also have a couple of bushes and other flowers in pots.
But I round that out with having even more natives for my birds, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
I would say that 98% of the greenery I have growing here is native. And for every non-native I may plant, I usually add 1-2 natives.
Wildlife thrives on my property because of the native plants; I have fewer garden pests than I ever have and hardly have an issue.
Native just works. It’s beneficial all around.
So how to register to be a certified Monarch waystation?
After you’ve spruced up your place, followed all of the guidelines mentioned above, you are ready to become registered!
Congratulations and thank you for being such an essential part of Monarch conservation!
All you need to do is go to the Monarch Watch website and register your yard/property there.
You’ll pick a name for your waystation, answer a few questions, and become certified!
You can even get this fun sign that you can proudly display to let everyone know how you help Monarchs.
The sign isn’t mandatory, and it does cost extra, but the money goes to a good cause.
The sign has also sparked a few conversations with friends about what a certified Monarch waystation is and why I am one.
This often prompts them to go home and make their yard a better one for Monarchs as well!
And again, making a place for Monarchs only means you are helping other butterflies, bees, birds, and other beneficial insects.
You are making a difference, and I think that feels absolutely fantastic.
Are you certified? Are you going to be? Comment below when YOUR love of Monarchs started: I’d love to hear your story!