Thursday, September 3, 2009


I came across an article in The Mount Vernon-Lisbon Sun about Monarch Watch. Jake Krob, the publisher of the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Sun newspaper gave me persmission to publish it on the site. Mr. Krob's newspaper is the official newspaper of Mount Vernon, Lisbon, and Bertham, Iowa.

The article was written by Dave Morris on September 2nd. It's about a couple named Bill and Winnie Hosford of Lisbon, who have an official Monarch Waystation on their property. Here it is:

Monarch Mission: Lisbon couple ‘hooked’ on helping butterfly species

Bill and Winnie Hosford of Lisbon, Iowa have made Monarch butterflies their mission. Tucked away behind Main Street in Lisbon is their home, the reconfigured former Gardner Arms fourplex on about a half acre of land. A sign at the entrance to their yard (left photo), which contains a variety of gardens (or rooms, as the Hosfords refer to them) identifies the property as an official Monarch Waystation, as designated by Monarch Watch, located at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. The sign notes: “This site provides milkweeds, nectar sources, and shelter needed to sustain monarch butterflies as they migrate through North America.”

“The milkweeds are there as the portico,” Bill said, noting that the Monarchs lay their eggs exclusively on milkweed leaves. Sure enough, once a Monarch lands on a milkweed leaf and flies away, Bill finds an egg on the leaf’s underside. The leaf is pinched off the plant so the egg may become a part of the Hosfords’ “nursery” on a kitchen counter, a collection of cups with gauze lids that contain developing butterflies in egg, caterpillar and chrysalis stages. Once a butterfly emerges from the chrysalis, it is released. As of last week, there were 30 future butterflies in residence.

The Hosfords say their interest in butterflies goes back three decades to when Winnie was a nurse at a Scout camp, but was rekindled in recent years by a program they attended in Jones County. “We thought, ‘We really need to do this,’” said Bill, a former science teacher who currently is librarian at Taft Middle School in Cedar Rapids. “We just got hooked.” When milkweed plants emerged in their yard four or five years ago, “we just decided to leave them,” Winnie said. The result of their efforts is about 1,000 square feet of flower space in plots spread over their half-acre of land.

To become a certified Monarch Waystation, the Hosfords met a variety of requirements that included having the appropriate plantings and avoiding use of any pesticides or herbicides. As part of their interest, the Hosfords created a website,
, that leads visitors through the property. It’s a whimsical but informative approach that makes website visitors feel as though they are checking out a bed and breakfast. A “room-by-room” tour of what they call the Gardner Butterfly Inn illustrates the habitat the Hosfords have created for their “guests”:

  • Blue Room: This garden is in full sun and features blueberry bushes that attract a variety of birds.
  • East Room: Actually a suite of gardens, it contains perennials and a variety of decorations. A mosaic sphere by daughter Heather Hosford illustrates the life cycle of the Monarch. Common Milkweed is present in some of these smaller gardens.
  • Fence Room: This one contains mostly hostas and is of little interest to butterflies, but rabbits are attracted to it. “We don’t discriminate,” Bill pointed out.
  • Gazing Ball Room: This is a small, 13-square-foot garden that includes plants that do well in the shade.
  • Meadow Room: A large stand of milkweeds is here, along with tall grasses, sunflowers and nectar-producing plants. In addition to butterflies, the garden attracts both migratory and native birds.
  • North Room: The small, circular garden featuring nectar plants and tall grasses, draws dragonflies and butterflies.
  • Octagon Room: This raised bed is designed with Monarchs specifically in mind and includes nectar and host plants, as well as cover and water. Three species of milkweed are present in this 170-square-foot garden.

Tagging butterflies is an important part of their participation in Monarch Watch. Small, adhesive tags are put on the butterflies in mid-August through September to help track the annual migration to Mexico. Each tag has a unique number that is recorded by the tagger to indicate the butterfly’s origin. The taggers’ information is entered into a Monarch Watch database, and through this information migration trends are identified. “Sometimes, I’ll go out, grab a net, snag it and tag it (photo right), then release it,” Bill said.

Last year, in addition to Bill and Winnie’s work, daughter Shelley Kamp of Marion tagged 250 monarchs. The Monarchs, after spending seven to eight months in Mexico, begin the return trip to the north, but the butterflies that arrive here are several generations down the line from the ones that began the journey. In Mexico, the Monarchs’ habitat is being threatened by logging in their native habitat. Monarch Watch has called for better enforcement to stop illegal logging and increased tree planting, among other measures. In the United States, planting of milkweeds on both private and public-owned land is being encouraged as a way to keep the Monarchs’ habitat in abundance.

The Hosfords moved from Franklin, Mass., in 2001 to be closed to Shelley and her family. Their younger daughter, Heather, also lives in Iowa and is a graphic designer and artist. Bill has created similar habitat for Monarchs at Taft Middle School, and it recently received the Monarch Waystation designation. He sees both of the waystations as a way to promote environmental awareness among both young people and adults. He also created a poster showing the development of the Monarch. “It’s nice to show how fascinating they are,” Winnie added.

For information about Monarch Watch, visit: Plan of action ... Monarch Watch director Chip Taylor has suggested the following actions to save the migration of the monarch butterfly. In the United States and Canada:
• Encourage departments of transportation to adopt planting and mowing practices that favor the growth of milkweeds and nectar plants.
• Promote and support conservation organizations (such as Monarch Watch) that have habitat protection as part of their mission to encourage the planting of milkweeds and native nectar plants.
• Encourage private land owners to adopt monarch-friendly land management practices.
• Encourage milkweed restoration on private and public lands. • Encourage gardening associations, gardeners, and homeowners to plant milkweeds.
• Encourage nature centers, zoos, schools, libraries, parks, municipalities, and other public facilities to plant milkweeds.
• Develop a habitat protection plan for the 1 billion acres of federal lands that contain monarch habitats.
• Fund outreach and educational efforts needed to accomplish the above.
• Modify existing laws, particularly in Canada, that prohibit growing milkweeds on private lands. Source: