Habitat Restoration

Monarch Butterfly Migration Map Spring 2014 - Internet Explorer_2014-04-07_08-15-08Are you ready?  The Monarch Butterflies have left Mexico and are headed our way!!! You can read the report from Journey North here.  And watch the migration unfold as people like you and me submit their sightings!

And so it begins! Or, I should really say – And so it continues — this relay of life!  As you have probably read through the numerous articles and reports in the news, the Monarch butterfly population is dangerously low. If you’re new to the news, just check out these articles:
- Monarch butterflies keep disappearing. Here’s why [Washington Post]
- Migration of Monarch Butterflies Shrinks Again Under Inhospitable Conditions [New York Times]
- Monarch butterflies decline; migration may disappear [Associated Press]

While numbers once measured a billion butterflies strong, right now they measure just 33 million – a mere shadow. In fact, you could fit ALL the Monarchs that are starting this great journey north into a regular size Walmart and still have room to shop.

But as a friend said, “where there’s life, there’s hope” – and right now the Monarchs are doing what they innately know to do – they are leaving their overwintering site in Mexico and flying back to us – looking for milkweed to lay their eggs on and native nectar plants to gain food from.

In Texas, we’ve seen reports on the Monarch Watch listserve that young milkweed plants are coming up – that’s great news! We hope that continues since whether or not we see Monarchs this spring depends in large part on what happens south of us!

Here in Virginia WE need to get ready and make sure our gardens are ready. 

What do we do to get ready for them? We set the table as any good host or hostess would and we wait for our guests to arrive! 

In mid-May, we will be getting in milkweed plugs from Monarch Watch and we’ll have those available for you to buy at $3 per plug. Watch our website and Facebook page for information on how and when to purchase those. The more milkweed and native nectar plants you have, the better the chance of attracting Monarchs.

So now is the time – look at your garden, your landscaping and see where you can put in a Monarch Waystation. It can be as small as a container garden on a deck or as large as a field that is managed to let the milkweed and nectar plants flourish. It can be at home in your yard, or at your church, school or workplace. It can be tidy and neat or wild and free. YOU can do this! WE can do this!

When you see your first wild milkweed shoots coming up from the ground – you can report it on Journey North

And – when you see your first Monarch – please tell us! and post it to Journey North so we can watch the migration unfold!

Let’s Bring Back the Monarch, Let’s Bring Back the Milkweed! Let’s Keep the Magic Alive!


Keeping the Magic Alive Monarch awareness events have begun with a seasonal series of informative and hopeful “The Magic of Monarchs” presentations led by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy president, Nicole Hamilton.

Last year, after the shocking loss of Monarch population numbers announcement, Loudoun Wildlife launched its Bringing Back the Monarch campaign.  Efforts to save the Monarch include many long-term projects like public and private habitat restoration (planting Monarch Waystations), native plant sales, milkweed monitoring, raising & releasing Monarchs, and an important education component.

Hamilton’s presentations educate both the informed and the newcomer regarding today’s latest on the plight of the Monarch.  She weaves critical information into cultural connections and the human experience.  Her slideshow, data, photography, and genuine ethusiasm engage her audiences, and she sends them away with what she hopes is a new purpose and an understanding of the significance just one person can have on the future of this important species.

Loudoun Wildlife is proud of the county’s fellow conservationists and residents; last year’s campaign resulted in the release of 2,502 Monarchs here in Loudoun County! Fourteen of those successful releases were accomplished by an inspiring–and YOUNG–local citizen-scientist, Carter Steadman.

Today, Carter, age 9, joined Nicole Hamilton at the first ”The Magic of Monarchs” event of the season.  He began by reminding the audience that, “…you’re never too young to make a difference.”

We agree.

Carter garden 4

Nicole Hamilton kicks off the season's Monarch education events, and is joined by a young Loudoun County Monarch conservationist, Carter Steadman

Nicole Hamilton, at Lovettsville Library, kicks off the season’s Monarch education events today (April 5th), and she is joined by a young Loudoun County Monarch conservationist, Carter Steadman.

Carter is a 3rd grader in Loudoun County at Hutchison Farm Elementary School, and he is worried that the Monarch might be gone before he even graduates high school.

Last year, while learning the enchanting science of life cycles in second grade, his teacher taught the class about the loss of the Monarch.  Carter has said that this teacher “changed his life.”  Why?  Because armed with the knowledge of a problem, Carter believes a SOLUTION is achievable.  Saving the Monarch has become Carter’s passion, and he has found an ally in Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy.

After spending last summer learning about raising caterpillars to adulthood and rearing multiple species of butterfly and moth (from found caterpillars), Carter decided he could help even more if he planted a Waystation of his own.  For his birthday last September, asking his friends to skip the typical material gift and offer donations toward garden costs instead, Carter was able to build and register an official Monarch Waystation in his yard! He named his garden Lepidoptera Lane because he hopes it will be a long-term habitat for butterflies, and a nectaring-point for migrating Monarchs.

Since then, Carter has realized how important it is to teach people about the Monarch–and that education is perhaps the most powerful solution.

“If I plant a garden, that’s something…but if others know how to do it, too–then all of a sudden there’s SO many more gardens and so much MORE habitat for the Monarch.”

So, Carter wants to get kids and their families involved, and he’s working hard to get the word out about the Monarch. Recently, and with the support of a teacher and the leadership at his school, Carter is planning  to install a Monarch Waystation & Learning Garden so that his classmates–and the school’s future students–can learn about life cycles, habitats, and conservation…hands-on.  WOW! He has already begun fundraising for the project which is slated to break ground in May, pending official approval.

But Carter’s not just interested in the grounds of his neighborhood…he wants to plant seeds in people, too–seeds of knowledge!  He has been building a website geared at educating his fellow young citizen advocates, and he’s panning to meet you, along with Nicole Hamilton, at more of Loudoun Wildlife’s Monarch events.  Like Carter said today:

“ The greatest thing you can do is tell someone, share about the Monarch with other people–that is how to fix the problem.”

Share his site, butterflybuddy.com, with the young people in your lives, and come on out to one of the upcoming Loudoun Wildlife ”The Magic of Monarchs” events (schedule below).

Also, follow Loudoun Wildlife online, on Facebook, and here on the blog for the latest on our Bringing Back the Monarch campaign.

Carter Steadman is "Keeping the Magic Alive" and he wants you to join him!

Carter Steadman is “Keeping the Magic Alive” and he wants you to join him!

Carter Steadman, at Lovettsville Library for April 5th's Monarch education event.

Carter Steadman, at Lovettsville Library for April 5th’s Monarch education event.

The Magic of Monarchs events are free to the public, ages 6+ (no registration required).
Questions: Contact Nicole Hamilton at nhamilton@loudounwildlife.org.

  • Saturday, April 19, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m., Middleburg Library
  • Wednesday, April 23, 7:00 – 8:00 p.m., Gum Spring Library
  • Wednesday, June 11, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m., Willowsford
  • Sunday, June 22, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m., Waterford


Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman


Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy gratefully welcomes Angie Rickard to our Board as our Habitat Restoration Chair!


Angie grew up in Oregon and moved to Leesburg from Brisbane, Australia in September. She has a master’s degree in environmental management from the University of Queensland. Most recently, Angie was employed in vegetation management where she oversaw the completion of over 100 habitat restoration projects with a primary focus on the eradication of invasive plant species and the introduction of native and endemic species.

Angie has a keen interest in camping and hiking and is very much looking forward to our spring season so she can enjoy the amazing wildlife and scenery this area has to offer. We know that Loudoun will enchant and inspire her creative efforts toward our habitat needs.

Angie’s unique experience and education add great strength and purpose to Loudoun Wildlife and to our many habitat restoration efforts. Look for more from Angie in the coming months, and check out our Habitat Restoration projects online.

Yours in conservation,
Sarah Steadman

Photo Credit: Angie Rickard




Take a few minutes to listen to voices from across our Country about the Monarch butterfly.

We, Loudoun, are not alone in our efforts to Bring Back the Monarch, Keep the Magic Alive!




Monarch_Swamp_Milkweed_20130804-14Have you created a Monarch Waystation?

Submit your story to Monarch Joint Venture and it will appear on the interactive map!

Let’s show the world that Loudoun County is working hard to Bring Back the Monarchs and Keep the Magic Alive!



Don Davis from Ontario passed along this great information – especially click on the video embedded in the article. Ilse shows how to collect milkweed seeds and how to plant them:

Excellent article and video with Ilse Gebhard from a year ago,  illustrating how easy it is to plant a suitable area with milkweed seed. I am sure that others may have useful suggestions at this important time of the year, when milkweed pods are beginning to ripen and release their seeds.



Mona Miller put together this excellent video on how to collect Common Milkweed seeds with fantastic tips on how to do it without getting the fluff all over your house :)


At the Unitarian Universalist Church of Loudoun, the largest fund raiser is the spring “Service Auction” in which members offer to provide services, such as swim lessons, theme dinners, wine tasting, child care, aerial tour of Loudoun in private plane, apartment in London, or anything that they have skills in and would like to share.  Then, at the dinner, the services are auctioned off and proceeds go to the church.

This year Natalie Pien offered a Monarch Waystation Garden and the Woodling family won the garden.  Plants came from Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and Abernethy and Spencer.  Natalie planted the garden the second week in June.

As a child, Terry, the husband, used to collect Monarch chrysalides and watch the metamorphosis.  So, he was really excited about the garden because he wanted to share the experience with his own 2 year old twin boys.

The garden is doing well.


You can help Monarchs by planting milkweed in your own backyard. Make a Monarch Waystation by planting milkweed and nectar plants and you will be providing Monarchs with what they need for food and reproduction.

waystationdqCreating a waystation is simple – it can be as small as a container garden or as large as a field.

  • Choose a sunny, protected location – 5-6 hours of sun a day is best.
  • Select a combination of host and nectar plants.

Host plants include Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), and to a lesser degree, Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa). All three milkweed plants also provide nectar for Monarchs as well as other butterflies.

Nectar plants include many options such as asters, bee balm, catmint, goldenrods, Joe Pye weed, New York Ironweed, Boneset, Wingstem, Black-eyed Susan, lobelia, coneflower, sunflower, verbena, zinnias and of course, milkweed – choose an assortment of plants that bloom at different times for a steady supply of nectar in your waystation.

Visit www.loudounwildlife.org/Monarch_Campaign_Plant_Waystations.html for more information on Monarch Waystations.

The Monarch Waystation Challenge

Currently, there are 26 waystations registered in Loudoun County. Help us grow this number as well as the Monarch population by participating in our Monarch Waystation Challenge. Create a waystation and you can win your choice of a Bringing Back the Magic Monarch t-shirt or copy of the Field Guide to Butterflies of Loudoun County!

  1. Create your waystation including host and nectar plants.
  2. Certify it at MonarchWatch.org.
  3. Send a picture of your Monarch Waystation with the certification number to nhamilton@loudounwildlife.org. We’ll post your photos on our blog and Facebook page. Waystation locations will also be added to the Google Map of Loudoun Monarch Waystations so we have a butterfly’s eye view of available host and nectar plants.
  4. We’ll draw the name of the winner on October 1.

Monarch waystations come in all shapes and sizes and can be in any sunny location – Make a Monarch Waystation and be part of the magic!


DWMP_bee_dogbane_20120608_5Pesticides in general are being used in far too cavalier a way nowadays – especially in our neighborhoods and around our homes. We’re simply poisoning our environment – poisoning ourselves, yet we’re not recognizing the signs that wildlife are giving us – even when they keel off at our feet.

Sure, there are situations where pesticides may be needed but it should be the exception, not the rule – and we shouldn’t have these crazy neighborhood contracts for recurring spraying – that sort of spraying is simply irresponsible.

I was at Home Depot last week picking up a planter in the garden dept and an employee wheeled up a whole shopping cart full of pesticides and herbicides and told the cashier – tell everyone these are free.  She did, and you should have seen the swarm of people around that cart, taking their poison. As I made my way to register, she tried to push some on me.  I declined – frankly, I was too shocked by it all, but in retrospect, I wish I had spoken up to all those people taking their “goodies”. I wish I had told them to wake up and smell the flowers, not that noxious smell of pesticides and herbicides, and to stop drinking the Kool-Aid of the chemical companies. It’s not healthy. I wish Home Depot stocked this brochure at their register or in their aisles, but then again, I guess it wouldn’t be too good for business.

Take a look at that brochure – are any of those products sitting on shelves in your garage?  If so, it’s time to come clean and kick the habit.

We live in our environment, it’s not something separate from us. It’s the air we breathe, the water we drink, the soil we walk on, the food we eat. And, what your neighbor sprays effects you and your family too.

Xerces Society provided a great summary of the pesticide problem that includes some terrific links and action we all need to take. And note, the pesticide problem is not just one where we need to complain to our government leaders – we need to be talking to our neighbors and Home Owner Associations – that’s where the biggest problem lies. Tell everyone you know to stop with the pesticides. simple stop. Stop the indiscriminate spraying. We don’t live in the 1950s or 60s - we know better by now.

From Xerces:

Two weeks ago, the largest native bee kill ever recorded occurred in Wilsonville, Oregon. More than 50,000 bumble bees died when 55 linden trees were sprayed with the pesticide dinotefuran (also known as Safari) in a Target parking lot. This loss represents potentially hundreds of wild bumble bee colonies.

Incidents like this one can easily go unnoticed, and may be happening frequently. The pesticide responsible belongs to a relatively new and controversial group of chemicals called neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids are highly toxic to bees, very long-lasting, and because they make flower nectar and pollen poisonous, there are growing concerns about their safety for pollinators. This year, the European Union cited risks to pollinators and banned certain uses of neonicotinoids for the next two years.

In urban areas, pesticides are used primarily for cosmetic purposes – to have a weed-free lawn, a blemish-free rose, or an aphid-free linden tree. The risk of losing valuable pollinators, such as bees, far outweighs any benefit of this type of cosmetic use.

These products have a wide variety of names (list of names). However, they all have one thing in common: they contain toxic neonicotinoid insecticides.

To prevent more large-scale bee poisonings, pollinators need your help.

Today, ask your Home Owner Association Board, mayor, city council, or county commissioners to:

  • Stop using neonicotinoid pesticides on property they manage (or at least, ask them what they use and why and research it!)
  • Require warnings be posted alongside displays of these chemicals at hardware stores and nurseries.
  • Ban the use of neonicotinoids for cosmetic purposes on ornamental and landscape plants within their  jurisdiction (similar to the ban now in force in Ontario, Canada).

You can protect bumble bees and other pollinators (and the rest of us) from these highly toxic insecticides.


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