The Butterfly Highway
You have probably heard about how important pollinators are to our state, country and the world. Because we are locally owned and headquartered in Apex, we support the North Carolina Butterfly Highway – an initiative that works to protect these delicate insects that are a critical part of our ecosystem.
Did you know?
- North Carolina has a $78 billion agriculture economy that relies on pollinators for crops such as squash, apples, blueberries and strawberries.
- Global food crops are dependent on pollinators and more than 70% of these crops either require or have higher production because of a pollinator insect visit.
- There are 174 species of butterflies in NC and approximately 1200 moth species.
- Monarch butterflies journey through NC during both their spring and fall migrations. Because of the threats to pollinator habitats, there has been a loss of important nectar plants as well as a significant loss in the Monarch’s host plant milkweed, which can affect their ability to fly the long distances as a part of migration
- There are 13 known bumblebee species in NC; several are threatened with extinction.
These are only a few facts listed on the North Carolina Wildlife Federation website. Upon review, it becomes immediately clear how important it is to protect these critical insects’ habitat.
In response to this growing need, the Butterfly Highway project was initiated and nurtured by Angel Hjarding in Charlotte, NC and is now a key part of the N.C. Wildlife Federation’s programs.
“We began the Butterfly Highway project with several Charlotte communities that wanted to beautify their environment through planting gardens. Through the project, the communities transformed community gardens, backyard gardens, public spaces and park fragments into new pollinator and wildlife habitats,” said Angel Hjarding. “As we expand this effort statewide, we’ll start to fill in the map and see the connectivity of the Butterfly Highway from the mountains to the coast.”
There are many ways to become involved. Either through being a NC Wildlife Federation member, donor, volunteer or creating a butterfly/bee space in your community or home. It is easy, fun, beautiful and the responsible thing to do.
For example, to become a designated Butterfly Highway pollinator garden, you only need the following elements:
Size: No minimum size required as long as the appropriate plants and resources are provided. Even an apartment balcony can provide habitat for pollinators.
Sun: Pollinators and the plants that support them need lots of sun. Your garden should receive at least 6 hours of sun per day.
Soil and water: Various plants have different soil and water needs. See our recommended native plant list for appropriate plants for your habitat type. Most pollinators get the water they need from nectar, but butterflies do love puddling in a butterfly spa!
Shelter: Plants should be planted close together, but not crowded, to provide protection from pests and predators.
Place to raise young: Native bees typically build their nests in the ground and require open patches of soil. Leave space in your garden free of mulch and debris to provide this essential bee nesting habitat. Butterflies lay their eggs on trees and herbaceous plants.
Food source: Nectar plants provide an essential food source for butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators. It is important to provide plants that bloom from early spring to late fall to provide adequate food for breeding and migration. It is also recommended to provide a variety of plants in different colors, shapes and heights that may be attractive to a diversity of pollinators. Your garden should include at least 3 nectar plants that are native to your region. See a list of recommended plants.
Sustainable gardening practices: Many pollinators are insects and are vulnerable to the effects of insecticides. It is recommended to use organic gardening practices to reduce these effects.
If you are interested in learning more about NCWF click here: http://ncwf.org/about/
For more information about creating your own butterfly highway habitat: Click here.