With the monarch butterfly as the city’s logo, it only made sense to Kathy Garvey that Papillion’s Sump Memorial Library rain garden should have a monarch waystation.
Garvey, a master gardener, had been working in the library’s garden for a few years. She knew that at some point the library had an area they called a butterfly garden.
In working with another master gardener and doing her own research on tagging butterflies, Garvey discovered the University of Kansas’ Monarch Watch program.
For a small fee and an application, the program certifies monarch waystations — places where the butterflies can stop for a break and a feed on their trip south.
The garden was already a significant part of the way to being eligible for certification. Garvey proposed the idea to library director Robin Clark and the staff.
“I thought it would be a very natural thing to bring that back,” Garvey said. “And it only makes sense. Papillion in French means butterfly and the monarch is the whole town symbol. I proposed it to Robin and she fell in love with it.”
When Clark started at the library in 2008, they changed the landscape between the library and its neighboring historical buildings. They removed overgrown bushes and put in a rain garden consisting of native Nebraska plants.
To have a certified waystation in the program, an area must have nectar plants for adult butterflies to feed and host plants for caterpillars. Monarch butterflies in particular require milkweed.
All the library’s garden needed was to reestablish the host plants. Milkweed plants were purchased and planted in late spring.
“They just took off and flourished,” Garvey said.
The garden became a certified monarch waystation on June 20.
“It was natural for us,” Clark said. “It was just another tie-in to our community and also to bring our community to the library.”
This year, Garvey was able to tag 15 butterflies on the library property.
The tags are small stickers labeled with a phone number, a link to monarchwatch.org and a specific identification number for each butterfly.
Identification numbers are used to track butterflies on their migration to Mexico. The peak migration for butterflies is from the end of August to the beginning of September, Garvey said.
She first got interested in tagging butterflies while working with another master gardener.
“She was catching and tagging while we worked in the gardens,” Garvey said. “She let me tag one and I was hooked.”
Garvey uses a large butterfly net to catch the insects. She grabs them through the net and holds the wings together, only handling the underside of the wings. Then she gently applies the tag and releases them. The butterflies are only handled for about a minute.
Placing the tag on the right location is important so it doesn’t mess up the butterfly’s aerodynamics, Garvey said.
“It’s not a real technical thing,” Garvey said. “You have to understand to handle it gently, but once you’ve done it, it’s really quite simple.”
Garvey was impressed with the numbers of butterflies in the library’s garden.
“I found anywhere from one to two dozen at a time,” Garvey said. “In an area where they’re migrating through, I’m told there will be thousands. I’ve never personally experienced that. That would just be the thrill of my life.”
Clark said they have seen more monarchs in the garden than they anticipated. The garden raises the topics of the environment, nature and community.
“It’ll be interesting to see what happens next year,” Clark said. “We’re really paying attention to how many monarchs are stopping here. It’s kind of raised an awareness of that in the community. It has a lot of different aspects for a lot of different people.”