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Sylvia Kiker explains to Liz Tincher’s sixth-grade earth works class why butterflies are
attracted to certain trees and bushes.
Photo by Jeff Eason

Originally published: 2014-05-19 14:09:48
Last modified: 2014-05-19 14:10:33

A garden fit for a monarch: Students work to attract butterflies

by Jeff Eason

Watching a monarch butterfly flutter by, it is easy to forget what a long trip it is on. Monarchs spend the winter in Mexico before heading north when the weather begins to warm. Some of these butterflies travel all the way to Canada during their annual migration. But some butterfly lovers are concerned about their drastically declining numbers. 

The reasons for the decline are many, but most experts point to dwindling forest habitat in Mexico and Central America, the increase of genetically modified crops and the use of herbicides and insecticides. 

To help increase the presence of monarch butterflies in Blowing Rock, students in Liz Tincher's sixth-grade earth works class are working on a project to install some "butterfly friendly" plants around the Blowing Rock School campus. 

"We want to help reintroduce monarch butterflies into the area by increasing their nesting and breeding areas," she said. "We're going to try to bring their numbers back up by installing milkweed and other plants they need for feeding, breeding and habitat." 

On Thursday, May 8, Tincher's class worked with Joe and Sylvia Kiker and new Blowing Rock landscape specialist Chris Pate to clear out weeds and other plants from three spots on the Morris Street side of the school. 

"We've got an overgrown white pine that we're going to remove and then we will plant butterfly-loving bushes to encircle the birch tree and the dogwood tree near the playground," Pate said. 

Some of the students worked on removing the overgrown pampas grass bush in front of the school's main office. 

Students working on the "Bring Back the Monarchs" butterfly garden project include Mathew Grambow, Robert Jones, Alex Webb, Michael Walker, Wiley Speckman, C.J. Clement, Jake Sears, Scott Robbins, Lennon Lupton, Cole Franklin, Ella Thompson and James Martinez. 

The project is being supported by Mustard Seed Market, the town of Blowing Rock, Gaines Kiker Metalsmith Designs, Girl Scout Troop, 10396, the Blowing Rock School PTO and others. 

A special plant sale to benefit the butterfly project will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, at the school. Featured plants at the sale will be milkweed, butterfly weed, butterfly bush, purple coneflower, aster, bee balm and others. 

The event is in conjunction with the school's annual Spring Fling event.