The Community Gardens Capture Team doesn’t just have its sights set on improving the beauty of Greater Johnstown, it’s preparing to help save a threatened species — the monarch butterfly.
In 2010, the World Wildlife Fund included monarchs on its list of the “Top 10 to Watch,” which includes species not yet classified as endangered, but could be in the future. Some estimates have monarchs declining by as much as 90 percent over the past two decades, from about 1 billion butterflies in the mid-1990s to just 35 million worldwide.
One of the reasons for these devastating numbers is the loss of the monarchs primary food source, milkweed, due in part to the heavy use of herbicides. “While there are over 100 species of milkweed in North America, it is the native milkweed they need to survive,” says Sue Konvolinka, who’s heading up the Community Gardens Capture Team. “Native milkweed sustains the life-cycle of the monarch butterfly. Monarch eggs are laid on the milkweed and when the eggs evolve into caterpillars they feed on the leaves.”
That’s why the Community Gardens Capture Team is growing milkweed this summer in a number of community gardens throughout Greater Johnstown. Find out more about milkweed, including how to plant it and in which conditions it thrives, by checking out the materials distributed at the Capture Team’s last meeting, created by team member Karlice Makuchan (Vision 2025 Milkweed Information; Native Milkweed Info Vision 2025).
According to Konvolinka, helping out the butterflies has far-reaching effects. “Monarchs are but one of many pollinators necessary to sustain us by moving pollen from flower to flower in our vegetable gardens. Without pollinators, we have no food,” she says. “Community gardens with milkweed help the monarch and the monarch helps the gardener in return!”
The Capture Team has plans to work on nine community gardens moving forward, now that the snow is gone and the soil is easier to till, and is busy planning spring clean-up dates. “Community members who share the same desire to ‘dig in the dirt’ are encouraged to join their neighborhood garden,” says Konvolinka. “Good soil is the foundation for a successful garden!”
Want to join the Community Gardens Capture Team? Email Sue Konvolinka, then get digging!