As you drive south along the I-85 corridor you might be sharing the road with a pollinator.
That’s because monarch butterflies undertake one of the world’s most remarkable and fascinating migrations, traveling thousands of miles on their fall migration from Canada to Mexico and back to Canada in the spring.
Duke Energy employees have built a rest stop for them -- the Kings Mountain Gateway Trail Butterfly Garden -- just off the interstate in Kings Mountain, N.C. The volunteer project, a garden to attract butterflies, was created by Cheryl Kelton and Randy Hinnant, who both work at Duke Energy’s Kings Mountain Generation Support Facility.
After hearing about the national movement, Save Our Pollinators, they began searching for the right place to create a butterfly garden. Unknowingly, Shirley Brutko, executive director of King’s Mountain Gateway Trail, had the same idea for a butterfly garden.
“Some connections are just meant to be,” Kelton. said. “We found the environmental cause much needed and knew this would be the start of something wonderful.”
With the help of $6,000 from the Duke Energy Foundation, volunteers prepared the site, The Plateau, cleared debris and placed rocks lining the curved gravel path through the garden. Then volunteers from Duke Energy, the Gateway Trail and Kings Mountain High School Earth & Environmental Science class distributed a North Carolina Piedmont pollinator seed mix containing milkweed. Common milkweed is the only plant in which monarchs will lay their eggs and the emerging caterpillars from their chrysalis will eat.
Butterflies and other pollinators are crucial to the food chain. One out of every three bites of food you eat is pollinated by a bee, butterfly, bat or moth. The Kings Mountain Gateway Trail Butterfly Garden is designed and planned by Dennis Patterson. It will take three years to become an adult butterfly garden and will eventually bloom across 3.5 acres at the highest peak of the trail.
About pollinators: Butterflies, hummingbirds, bats, bees, beetles and flies pollinate more than 75 percent of our flowering plants, and nearly 75 percent of our crops. They move pollen from one plant to another, fertilizing the plants. Without them, wildlife would have fewer nutritious berries and seeds and people would have fewer fruits, vegetables and nuts, like blueberries, squash and almonds.
Threats: North American monarch butterflies and other pollinators are threatened by climate change, pesticide use and habitat loss, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
What you can do: Create habitats and gardens with plants that attract pollinators. So monarch habitats, such as the Kings Mountain butterfly garden, will benefit other plants and animals.
What others are doing: Duke Energy and Bayer team up to attract native pollinators such as hummingbirds and bees to rights of way.
More information: www.pollinator.org; www.fws.gov/pollinators.