By Charlotte Wray
Butterfly populations and other North American pollinator species, such as bees and moths, began to decline several decades ago. As the decline became more rapid in the 2000s, Angel Hjarding, director of pollinators at the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, decided to take matters into her own hands and formed the Butterfly Highway project in February 2016.
Hjarding’s campaign aims to create a “highway” of native, flowering nectar plants, specifically milkweed, for the monarch butterfly. These “pit stops” will be both large-scale and residential, with community, residential and business gardens, and the project will also partner with organizations to ensure long-term garden sustainability.
The project has expanded from its origin in Charlotte, N.C., into western North Carolina, with new habitats and gardens forming in Asheville, Brevard, Hendersonville, Banner Elk and Boone.
Pollinators are vital to both the balance of ecosystems and the agricultural economy, since over 70 percent of crops require or yield higher production because of pollination.
The decrease in pollinator populations, especially the monarch butterfly, is due in part to increased urbanization, pesticides, agricultural practices and “limited floral resources,” Hjarding says.
Since the launch of the project, about 250 habitats have been planted or planned across North Carolina.
For more information, visit: butterflyhighway.org/bh-info