In June 2020, the Dummerston Conservation Commission rolled out its summer project, “Inviting Monarch Butterflies to Dummerston”. The focus of this project was to educate and engage residents in the crucial work of increasing the diversity of habitat to attract a wide variety of pollinators, who are essential to the health of our worldwide ecosystem and to our food supply. Judy Fink, DCC Commissioner and retired educator, had conducted her own informal two year investigation on Monarchs in her garden using Swamp Milkweed, a native cultivar, as a food source for larvae. Based on two successful summers, Judy launched a town project. A local farmer, Helen O’Donnell (Bunker Farm), propagated Swamp Milkweed, and thanks to a donor was able to provide free plants for 20 residents eager to participate in the project. COVID-19 safety issues required that all instruction and interaction was held remotely through email exchanges, photographs and facilitator-created videos.
Unfortunately, the local and national Monarch population declined significantly in 2020. Despite few Monarch sightings in Dummerston, project participants were enthusiastic about continuing the project for a second year and expressed a reinvigorated commitment to Monarch survival and habitat restoration, which is vitally important in years of population decline.
The Dummerston Conservation Commission is expanding this project into its second year, inviting returning participants to participate, and is welcoming new residents to join the fun and excitement. Participants will have an opportunity to buy Swamp Milkweed plants at Bunker Farm, and we will band together to observe and monitor Monarch adult, caterpillar and chrysalis activity this summer.
Here’s how it works:
- On Saturday, June 19 from 11:00 AM-2:00 PM, meet Judy at Bunker Farm to purchase individual or 6 packs of Swamp Milkweed plants lovingly grown by Helen O’Donnell. (Prices TBD, but no more than $4/plant or $6/6-pack). Helen has grown a limited number of plants for this project, and they will be available to buy until the supply runs out.
- Get to work. Research where to plant your Swamp Milkweed, and make sure it will be in a location where you can monitor Monarch activity readily. Observe your plant(s) regularly and document once Monarch butterflies return in early summer. Keep a careful count of eggs, caterpillar stages, chrysalis, and adults. Monarch Joint Ventures and Xerces are two of the many valuable research organizations that will help you get started and continue learning.
- Throughout the summer, Judy will regularly post short videos and Monarch musings on the DCC website and Facebook page, demonstrating how she monitors Monarch activity in her garden.
- Let’s exchange information! We will have an opportunity to talk to each other by email and share stories, photos and videos. We’re hoping to have a field trip or two to Judy’s house on the hill to see what’s going on with Monarchs there. Stay tuned for announcements regarding field trip dates and times.
- Optional participation in Summer BioBlitz (a national Monarch count) and Fall 2021 community presentation (details to follow).
- Keep your Dummerston neighbors informed about what you’re observing! Contact us at the Dummerston Conservation website and Facebook page.