We're building a home for butterflies
June 21, 2012
We're building a garden to sustain monarch butterflies on their annual migration.
The Indiana Family Farm is the new home for a grassroots conservation project: a Monarch Butterfly Waystation. By planting butterfly-friendly plants, we hope to attract and support these beautiful insects on their annual migration to Mexico.
Animal Curator Mark Weldon spearheaded the project.
"The zoo is a charter member of the Butterfly Conservation Initiative," he says. "We've had a long-term interest in this type of project."
Monarch butterflies have a special relationship with plants. Adult monarchs feed on nectar from just about any flower. But the larvae (caterpillars) can eat only one type of plant: milkweed.
"Unfortunately, when grassy fields are converted to farmland or housing additions, the milkweed is removed. That means no more monarchs," Weldon says.
To create the waystation, Weldon converted the Indiana Family Farm's "garden" to a butterfly paradise. More than 390 individual plants were planted this spring, including milkweed, butterflyweed, blazing star, coneflower, ironweed, New England aster, and bergamot.
"We decided to go with native varieties," Weldon says, "but you could also use cultivars if you prefer."
Why is there a "cage" around the new garden? "That's to keep the peafowl out of the garden until it's established," Weldon says.
Weldon notes that by incorporating simple changes in their landscaping, such as planting a variety of flowers, eliminating pesticides and providing a water source, everyone can help butterflies.
Learn how to create a monarch waystation of your own at www.monarchwatch.org/waystations/waystation_brochure.pdf.
"Claws, Paws, & Jaws" program on Friday
Explore the world of predators on land and sea at this unique event! Activities are free with zoo admission and run from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Backstage pass June 28
Go behind the gates that say "employees only" to learn how the zoo operates.
Tours of the Zoo Commissary, Aquarium Workroom and Reptile Room run continuously from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. June 28 and are free with zoo admission.
Wild Wednesdays: Members only!
Each Wednesday through the end of July, zoo members can enjoy extended evening hours at Wild Wednesdays. The zoo gates remain open until 7 p.m.; rides and buildings close at 7:30 p.m.; and the grounds close at 8 p.m.