With prime position along the insect’s natural migration trail, the Chickasaw Nation is taking strides to restore the monarch butterfly population with two monarch gardens at the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma.
According to a report from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the population of monarch butterflies has decreased by 970 million since 1990.
The recent decline in monarch butterflies is due to decreased milkweed, the sole food source and home for monarchs. The Chickasaw Nation created a butterfly garden populated with milkweed at the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur. The Cultural Center sits just off highway I-35 in south-central Oklahoma and is located in the primary flight path for many monarchs, and tourists.
Each year, monarch butterflies migrate from their summer gardens in the northern United States to Mexico and make the return trek north again in the spring. During the monarch’s migration, the butterflies must stop along the way to rest, eat and lay eggs. Chickasaw Country is located in a critical position along the migration path, which provides a one-of-a-kind experience to see the monarchs as they rest here during their migration season.
“The goal of the butterfly garden is to significantly advance monarch butterfly conservation in south-central Oklahoma and enable visitors to south-central Oklahoma to experience the elaborate monarch migration,” said Paige Williams, director of corporate development and tourism for the Chickasaw Nation. “Currently, 5,000 milkweed seeds have been used at the Chickasaw Cultural Center, and an additional 45,000 have been donated to the partnered commercial greenhouse to grow and use in restoration efforts in the local area so the monarchs can stop in Chickasaw Country for years to come.”
The butterfly garden is 65′ x 45′ in size and contains mostly nectar plants, including the main monarch butterfly host plant, Aesculapius Tuberosa, also known as milkweed.
“It’s magnificent that south-central Oklahoma is located in the prime flight path for the monarch butterflies, as well as other butterfly breeds,” said Williams. “We encourage travelers in south-central Oklahoma to visit the Chickasaw Cultural Center and experience the butterfly gardens and the monarch butterflies this fall and early winter as the monarchs make their way to Mexico. It’s a great educational tool to see these notable black and orange butterflies in their natural habitat.”
The butterfly garden is located south of the Sky Bridge along the path to the Traditional Village of the Chickasaw Cultural Center. There are plans for a second garden in 2016, said Valorie Walters, executive officer of the Chickasaw Cultural Center.
“The success we’ve seen from the first butterfly garden, which opened in the fall of 2015, confirms that there is a greater need to keep the iconic monarch butterflies in our ecosystem,” said Walters.
“Awareness about the monarch butterflies and their natural habitat, along with other pollinators, is vital to the preservation of our environment and food supply.”