Flutter By: I’m Happy to Be Part of Our Communities’ Efforts to Save the Monarch Butterfly

Amazing residents live at every Front Porch community. But let me tell you about a particular group of resident gardeners who believe that getting dirt under their fingernails and planting milkweed seeds – the monarch caterpillar’s only source of sustenance – is the best way to save the endangered butterflies. 

The Walnut Village Monarch waystation.

This group inspired the “Front Porch Monarch Butterfly Collaborative” project. When I brought all our monarch butterfly enthusiasts together, I was in for a treat!

I am the volunteer engagement manager for Front Porch and It all began when I received an email from a Wesley Palms resident in early 2021, informing me that the annual monarch butterfly count in California was at an all-time low. She wrote …  “We have had such success with our monarch waystation at Wesley Palms and we thought it would be a great idea if saving these beautiful butterflies from extinction could become a Front Porch Communities project. Every community could do their part to contribute to the project. It could be just some milkweed plants in pots on a terrace or a whole garden devoted to saving the monarchs. The population of monarch butterflies is rapidly plunging towards extinction and anything that the Front Porch Communities could do to help to save them could make a huge difference.”

A monarch haven at Wesley Palms.

And just like that, the collaborative project was born. I took her email to heart, so to do my part, I invited everyone in the Front Porch family who was interested, to meet quarterly via Zoom. During these chats, we feature the work of one community each meeting, share ideas and exchange stories of wonder. We always learn something new, and come away with great inspiration.  So far, six Front Porch communities have created monarch habitats with at least four others planning to join them soon. Wesley Palms and Walnut Village have both recognized monarch butterfly waystations certified by Monarch Waystation Program, an organization based at the University of Kansas that promotes the creation, conservation, and protection of monarch habitats.

It was also my pleasure to host a “Strength of Community” Zoom chat that spread the word across all of Front Porch and beyond about the wonderful and important work this group has done.

But this project is a catalyst for so much more – this effort builds community. Friends meet in the garden to get their hands dirty together and to watch hungry caterpillars eat and grow. They nurture new friendships as they nurture monarch habitats.  Butterflies are a symbol of metamorphosis – new life – something our residents understand as they leave the familiar and make their new homes with us. They understand the monarch’s journey of change better than anyone. The monarch brings back memories long left behind, and residents delight in rediscovering, counting, and releasing beautiful butterflies.

We have deepened our understanding of the science surrounding this important pollinator, and we have learned that based on geography, our communities are differently suited to support the monarch. That understanding alone makes our collaboration worthwhile. Residents have helped their communities gather the best information to establish and maintain healthy and supportive settings for the monarch.   

This project has endless possibilities: These days I see monarchs all around when I visit our communities. I experience the impact our resident monarch enthusiasts make when they share their research and collaborate with staff.  Our collaboration has opened us up to learning how simply choosing native plants can benefit the monarch while bringing beauty and sustainability to our campuses.  I am inspired by the joy our residents experience as they grow and learn. I look forward to our communities creating opportunities for their local school children to visit our campuses and learn from our residents.

Stay Tuned! There is more to come!

— Mary Kott is the volunteer engagement manager for Front Porch