SHOREWOOD — The monarch butterfly is one of the most easily recognized insects in North America.
They’re also pretty easy to spot in Shorewood. If you want to see one, don’t chase, just wait. Heide Piehler with the Shorewood Library has worked hard to make sure you see one.
“We’re trying to boost the population,” she says.
A few years ago, the library partnered with the Senior Resource Center to create the Shorewood Monarch Project.
“To inform other people about the importance of monarchs and how endangered they were,” she says.
Which means Heide spends a lot of time out in this garden looking at the underside of leaves. Teeny-tiny white spots found there are monarch eggs.
All summer, you can watch them hatch into caterpillars, who will eventually wrap themselves up into chrysalises and then emerge as beautiful butterflies.
“For the kids who are slightly older, I actually have them take the butterfly out, put it on their finger and let them choose a flower to put it on, and it’s very exciting,” Heide says.
For those butterflies to do well after they’re released, they need a garden full of native plants like the one outside the Shorewood Library. The more plant types, the longer the bloom time.
“So, the more diversity we have, we would create a longer food line for them in the summer,” says Ben Habanek, Shorewood’s services foreman. “We can attract different pollinators all through the course of the entire summer, as opposed to a more narrow planting spectrum that would have a shorter bloom time.”
Habanek is a professional horticulturist. He says the Monarch Project has spread far beyond the Library and the Senior Resource Center. Most of the gardens in Shorewood are planted with native varieties. Habanek says they’re better suited to Wisconsin weather extremes and require less maintenance.
“You’re seeing more and more homeowners getting involved and getting interested in planting native plants in their yard,” he says.
And the results are obvious. In 2018, Heide helped release more than 1,600 monarchs. She released more than 2,000 in 2019.
“It’s interesting because people will say, ‘I see more monarchs in Shorewood than I’ve seen for years!’” says Heide. “And that’s because so many people are working to increase the population.”