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Keep Calm and Flutter On: The Dunes is a MonarchWatch Waystation

As if ocean blues weren’t enough — thanks to some conservation gardening work, you may just see a splash of orange outside your cottage window. As of September 2017, The Dunes is officially certified as a waystation with MonarchWatch!

For you non-entomologists out there, a MonarchWatch waystation is an official stopping point on the Monarch Butterfly migratory path. They travel down the Atlantic Coast, starting in Canada and ending in Mexico, and we’ve taken many steps towards inviting them to make a stop (or start) at our neck of the waterfront.

Tending To Our Fluttering Friends

We saw a bountiful bunch of butterflies before the mid ‘90s, but in recent years the Monarch has been far less of a frequent flyer. The overall population has suffered from loss of habitat due to climate change, rise of predators and parasites, and invasive plants that the Monarch confuses for its proper host, the native milkweed.

There are several ways to support the Monarch. The main method is to incorporate some milkweed into your garden — Monarch butterflies can’t survive without it, as it serves as food for their caterpillars and a ground for laying eggs. In addition to milkweed, gardeners can also plant buddleia (butterfly bush) or other plants that support the Monarch habitat (proper flower species vary depending on the region of North America you live in).

We’ve been doing all we can to support the growth of milkweed and other butterfly-supporting plants here at The Dunes. Garden gazers will often ask us, “What’s that plant with the horns?” and we’re happy to share the story behind this sweet-smelling plant that draws in hundreds of Monarchs to our property.

Chrysalis Sightings on the Waterfront

Our head housekeeper Mellissa even came across a chrysalis, an opaque cocoon, hanging from their door at Cottage 18. A monarch chrysalis in its early stage is like a work of art with a bright green, iridescent surface and striking gold spots. Yikes — a cottage door is not the safest place for it to live, so we carefully transferred it to a sheltered spot.

Another chrysalis was seen hanging above the ice machine — and this time, it had already progressed far enough to go from green to black, with the familiar orange wing color starting to surface. We decided to leave it be and it had turned into a butterfly by the end of the day!

Monarch Support Around Ogunquit

The Dunes on the Waterfront is proud to be an official MonarchWatch waystation.

We’re not the only butterfly lovers in town. Our friends over at our favorite Ogunquit walking trail, The Marginal Way, have also been hard at work in their efforts to support the Monarch. A milkweed mimicker, the Swallow-wort, has been growing in Ogunquit (or in other words: a plant that produces similar stimuli to native milkweed). This is a huge issue for Monarchs who lay their eggs here because once the eggs hatch, the caterpillars are poisoned by the toxicity of the invasive plant. Over the last couple years, landscapers at The Marginal Way have been working to eradicate the mimicker and replace it with native milkweed.

We make it our mission to support native plant and animal species, and we’re glad to be of help by becoming a MonarchWatch waystation. The next time you stay at The Dunes, keep your eyes open for our fluttering friends — if you’re lucky, you may even spot a huge group hovering by or covering a tree as a pit stop on their migratory path.

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  1. I saw the butterfly garden this summer, and I am inspired to make one in my backyard in Pittsfield, MA.

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