When Fayetteville City Hall’s front lawn (facing the highway) was landscaped in 2017, a 15-foot by 30-foot area was prepared and set aside for Fayette Master Gardeners to plant a special garden that would be featured on the countywide Monarch Butterfly & Pollinator Trail. This spring, monarch caterpillars (which, of course, turn into monarch butterflies) were spotted in the garden.
According to lepidopterists (people who study butterflies and moths), monarch butterflies begin a calendar year making their way up and over from Mexico and Southern California to lay eggs in the Eastern United States around March and April. Those eggs hatch as caterpillars, and they’re known as the First Generation. Those green and white striped caterpillars eat milkweed for a couple of weeks, form a cocoon around themselves, then emerge after the 10-day metamorphasis as monarch butterflies.
Monarchs from the first generation lay Second Generation eggs around May and June, and this cycle is repeated for Third and Fourth generations. That monarch Fourth Generation is different from the first three, though. The Fourth Generation will be born to survive the incredible journey all the way back to Southern California and Mexico before winter, then return to the Eastern United States to lay First Generation eggs in the spring of 2019. Instead of living the usual two to six weeks, these Fourth Generation monarchs will live six to eight months and somehow know the same basic route flown by its great-great grandparents.
According to the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, “the monarch butterfly is in trouble”. The FWS says migratory monarch butterflies have dwindled in numbers over the last two decades. Some say illegal forest harvesting in Mexico is a culprit, while others focus on the lack of milkweed, which is the monarch caterpillar’s almost exclusive source of food.
Jeff Mellin and his fellow Fayette Master Gardeners members, with help from the University of Georgia Fayette County Extension Office and the Fayette County Board of Education, are doing what they can to make sure Fayetteville and the rest of Fayette County are hospitable to these magnificent monarchs. The Fayetteville City Hall pollinator garden, which includes bountiful milkweed, is one of 18 such stops along the Fayette County Monarch Butterfly & Pollinator Trail. Other locations within the City of Fayetteville include Cleveland Elementary School on Lester Road, Spring Hill Elementary School on Bradford Square, the UGA Extension office on Stonewall Avenue, Fayetteville Elementary School on Hood Avenue, and Patriot Park on Redwine Road.
Mellin said Fayette Master Gardners will continue to maintain and add to the gardens already planted, and they plan to plant more in the future. The greenhouse at the Fayette County BOE headquarters on Lafayette Avenue in Fayetteville is where milkeed and other pollinator plants are grown from seed and nurtured until they are ready for planting.
To learn more about Fayette Master Gardeners and their efforts to support the monarch butterfly, contact Jeff Mellin: 678-787-9118; firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the national “Save the Monarch” campaign, visit fws.gov/savethemonarch.
Click the image below to find pollinator gardens all over Fayette County. Click here to download a PDF version of the map.