Every fall, the Rio Salado Audubon Center has Saturday conservation work days. These work days range from making owl habitats to cleaning up trash in the Rio Salado waterways. On October 21st, nine of the YHS Science NHS members participated in a work day to help make better habitat for monarch butterflies.
Monarch butterflies are a species of butterfly that live and migrate through Arizona. They feed on nectar and lay their eggs on desert milkweed. Desert milkweed is the only plant the caterpillars will feed on, so it is an important plant for monarchs in the Sonoran desert. The Arizona Audubon Society wants to help monarchs in Arizona by planting more of the milkweed as well as other nectaring plants that the adult monarch butterflies can feed on. To achieve their goals, they asked volunteers to work in their butterfly garden planting desert milkweed, fairy duster, and other plants that will help butterflies.
Armed with shovels, picks, and plants, we joined other volunteers in digging holes, pulling out rocks, and planting plants to help attracted butterflies to the area. While the work was difficult, it was ultimately rewarding when one of the center employees pointed out a monarch butterfly at one of the newly planted plants.
Once we finished with the butterfly garden, we also helped in pulling out invasive buffelgrass from the Rio Salado river area. Buffelgrass is native to Africa and was brought to the Americans as food for livestock. The problem with buffelgrass is that it out competes our native desert plants and is taking over many parts of the Sonoran Desert. To help get rid of this pest plant, we took out shovels and picks and pulled them out by the roots.
We had a fun time at the Arizona Audubon Center helping native desert wildlife and their habitat. Thanks to the students who attended and who worked so hard to conserve Arizona wildlife!