Transportation Cabinet beautifies Kentucky
roadsides with wildflowers and waystations
FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 11,
2017) - With highway construction season
kicking off in April, orange barrels and freshly laid blacktop have become a
common site throughout the state, but the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet
(KYTC) is also paving the way this spring for one of nature’s black and orange
phenomenon: the monarch butterfly. In addition to continuing the Cabinet’s
traditional planting of wildflowers along state roadsides, KYTC agronomists will
be establishing monarch butterfly habitats – called waystations – for the
“Wildflowers planted along
state roadsides by the Transportation Cabinet offer scenes of vivid color for
travelers, provide sources of nourishment for pollinators and create a
favorable impression of Kentucky for tourists,” said David Cornett, assistant
director of KYTC’s Division of Maintenance. “This year we are pleased to add
monarch waystations to our spring planting rotation, which will enhance the
beauty of the Bluegrass while offering the resources that monarch butterflies
need to survive.”
Last year, the Kentucky
Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Kentucky State Nature Preserves
Commission brought together over 40 government agencies for the Kentucky
Monarch Summit in Frankfort. At the event, KYTC personnel recognized a
multi-purpose opportunity for using state right-of-way: creating scenic public
landscapes that also serve as habitats for monarch butterflies. The monarch,
famous for its migration from Canada to Mexico, is the only butterfly known to
make a two-way bird-like migration, a mystery that baffles scientists.
“Kentuckians will begin seeing
monarchs as early as May as the butterflies migrate north from Mexico to
Canada,” said Mike A. Smith, a roadside environment state administrator with
the Kentucky Department of Highways. “However, the biggest surge of monarchs in
Kentucky will be in late summer and fall as the butterflies begin their return
south for the winter.”
No milkweed, no monarch
Over the past two decades, the
monarch butterfly population has dramatically declined by 80 percent. The
destruction of milkweed in natural habitats is largely responsible for the
demise of the monarch butterfly, which lays its eggs exclusively on milkweed
plants. In addition, monarch caterpillars eat only milkweed, so without
milkweed, monarchs will not survive. The butterfly species may be listed as
endangered or threatened as early as 2018.
“It’s in the best interest of
taxpayer dollars for the Cabinet to do our part to ensure the survival of the
monarch butterfly,” said Smith. “Once the monarch is listed as endangered or
threatened – like the northern long-eared bat and the Indiana bat – the impact
can become very expensive for the Cabinet.”
agronomists plan to establish monarch waystations – 10x10 or 10x20 habitat
plots – at all rest areas and state welcome centers this spring. The monarch
habitats, composed of common milkweed and nectar-producing plants, will provide
spaces for monarchs to lay their eggs and to refuel during their two-way
migration. Without nectar, adult monarchs cannot replenish the energy supply
needed for their long migratory trip.
A colorful palette for
Nectar from the waystation
flowers will also attract a variety of pollinators – including bees and
hummingbirds – a benefit that fulfills a component of the Kentucky Department
of Agriculture’s (KDA) Pollinator Protection Plan. As a stakeholder in KDA’s
plan, the Transportation Cabinet will increase pollinator habitats with its
waystation and wildflower plots on state right-of-way.
Wildflower bulbs planted along
roadsides last fall and additional seeds planted this spring will produce
splashes of colorful blooms – including lavender, orange, purple, blue, red,
and yellow – to attract pollinators. Wildflower patches will create
approximately 120 acres of scenery across the Commonwealth.
Daffodils began blooming early
this year in districts 5 and 10 because of unusually mild late-winter temperatures.
Additional wildflowers will bloom statewide throughout the spring and summer
and into the fall.
The wildflower patches, along
with this year’s new waystations, will beautify the state, contribute to
pollinator conservation and preserve the pathway for the highly recognized
black and orange butterfly whose existence is threatened.
For more information on
monarch waystations, visit monarchwatch.org.
Connect with the Kentucky
Transportation Cabinet at http://transportation.ky.gov/,
www.facebook.com/kytc120/ or https://twitter.com/KYTC.