Flights of Fancy

Madison business owners create a Monarch Waystation at store

Folkners want to help promote life
of migrating butterflies

(November 2018) – The beautiful orange and black Monarch butterflies are heading south. These butterflies are migrating south to Mexico as the weather gets colder and the winter season approaches.
Since the larvae only eat milkweed, it’s essential for these plants to be thriving for these butterflies to survive. According to researchers, about 90 percent of the Monarchs population has vanished. One way to help with these butterflies is to create Monarch gardens or Monarch Waystations.

Photo by Sam Swartz

Larry and Sonia Folkner are creating a Monarch Waystation at their business, Fountain Alley Body Care, in Madison, Ind. They pose beside a mural on the wall of their building.

A Monarch Waystation is a garden that is specifically geared toward providing the nutrients and a habitat for the struggling butterflies to thrive, such as milkweed, nectar and shelter with also plenty of sunshine. These Waystations help produce successive generations and sustain their migration.
Sonia and Larry Folkner, who own Fountain Alley Body Care at 318 W. Main St. in Madison, Ind., are in the process of creating their own Waystation in the courtyard behind their building, which can be accessed from the side ally.
“We came up with this idea when a lady came in around four years ago and wanted me to donate a natural sponge for butterflies she is traveling with, and that they needed milkweed to grow,” said Sonia Folkner. “Well, we have a lot of milkweed grown in our hayfields now, so we thought why not promote milkweed here for our store. We started telling people about the caterpillars, and bringing the butterflies in, so we thought it would be cool to have an education center back there that people can just stroll through.”
The Monarch butterfly is a two-way migrating species, with five generations a year. They start in Canada and make their way down south laying eggs along the way. They actually go to the same tree that their great-great grandparents went to every time.
The first four generations only live for about 60 days and only lay their eggs on milkweed plants.

Photo by Sam Swartz

The Monarch Waystation at the Jefferson County History Center was successful again, with providing plenty of milkweed for the monarch to thrive.

The fifth generation flies to central Mexico for the winter and then flies back up north, living around eight months.
According to Sonia, the eggs take about three days to hatch, which then turns into a caterpillar, which can only eat milkweed. When they turn into a caterpillar, it’s about a two-week span of the Monarch life. It then forms a chrysalis, which is a beautiful green cocoon with gold specs on it. They stay in the Chrysalis form for about 10-15 days until they come out as a butterfly. Within 24 hours, the Monarch butterflies need a nectar plant to feed on.
“We go out on the farm, find the milkweed with eggs on them, bring those leaves in and raise them from an egg and bring them new leaves every day,” Sonia said. “If we find caterpillars, we bring them in, too. I hardly ever handle the caterpillars, I don’t think it’s harmful, but I think it’s better not to. We try to keep them as if they are in nature and protect them during that time and then let them go.”
The Monarch species is declining due to the expansion and the extensive use of herbicides in croplands, pastures and roadsides and farm practices have the potential to strongly influence monarch populations.
“Some people are saying that we should not raise them, just let it go back to nature,” Sonia said. “I’m all about nature taking care of itself, but the second year, we were looking for caterpillars, and we found three on one plant. We thought, if they are there tomorrow, we will not raise them, then that just proves to me that they can do it themselves. We came back the next day, and there was only one. So how long is he going to last? There are spiders, flies and things beyond chemicals from nature that will get at them. I think it’s beneficial.”
Another Monarch butterfly Waystation in Madison was created two years ago at the Jefferson County History Center. It is located by the train car that sits in the front of the building. The idea started from local resident Mike Moore, who dedicated the Waystation to his mother-in-law.

Photo provided

The Folkners provide a haven for migrating Monarch butterflies at their southern Indiana farm.

Pam Zehren, a retired teacher from Lydia Middleton Elementary School, has helped Moore with the growth and maintenance of the garden. “I garden a lot at home, so I just help him with the gardening here and put in some plants,” she said. “We have had a lot of success with it this year. We invite them in by having milkweed growing on our own farm as well. I’m so happy that we have had the comeback this year with the Monarchs.”  
By creating and maintaining a Monarch Waystation, it’s contributing to Monarch conservation, an effort that will help assure the preservation of the species and the continuation of the spectacular monarch migration.
Sonia said, “For tourism, its educational, and no one hates a Monarch butterfly. I want our Waystation to be a self-guided tour and open to the public certain hours. I also want it locally, so we can have schools come in and see the Waystation and the mural. My plan is to have QR codes so they can scan something, so that part of the mural will be explained on their phone or we will have brochures.”
The Folkner’s plan is to have their Waystation finished and open to the public by spring of 2019. In September they submitted a request for $3,000 to $4,500 from the Jefferson County Board of Tourism to help establish their Waystation. The board tabled the request until more information is obtained about the project.
“Our hope is that the locals will think, ‘Oh, I can put in a Waystation, too, to help with the Monarch butterflies species,” Sonia said.

• For more information about Monarch Waystations, visit www.monarchwatch.org or The Beautiful Monarch page on Facebook.

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