\r\nBy Glenda C. Booth\r\nAlexandria, VA - When Veneeta Anand bought a house on a 5,000-square-foot lot in Rosemont in 2002, the backyard was a swimming pool ringed by grass. By 2010, she had filled the pool, killed the grass and created a robust native plant garden. Today, in most months, bees and butterflies swirl around her garden. One day last September, she chirped, \u201cThose two are mating. There they go!\u201d and they zipped up into a neighbor\u2019s tree.\r\nToday, her front and back yards are thriving with native plants like asters, milkweed and ironweed. Bees are buzzing. Insects are nibbling. Butterflies are fluttering. There\u2019s not a blade of grass in sight. In cold frames, she starts arugula, parsley, peppers, blue basil and fennel, a favorite of the black swallowtail butterfly. Her plantings have attracted at least five other butterfly species: Eastern tiger swallowtail, cabbage white, spicebush, red spotted purple and skippers. Her garden is certified as a Monarch Watch Waystation and a National Wildlife Federation backyard habitat.\r\n\r\nAnand doesn\u2019t just plant plants that support insects, she raises butterflies. \u201cIn India, where I grew up, we had hens and cows,\u201d she offers. Today she\u2019s moved from poultry and bovines to monarch butterflies and in 2018, she raised a black swallowtail. \u201cOnce you raise monarchs, it\u2019s an addiction,\u201d she says.\r\nDuring the work week, she is the Director of Communications for Cheiron, Inc., a financial analysis and actuarial consulting firm.\r\nSue, Too\r\nSue Tate has an insect frenzy going on in her Monarch Waystation, too, at her Del Ray home where she\u2019s lived with husband Bill for 35 years. Multiple species of butterflies and bees visit plants like hyssop, cosmos, milkweed and Joe Pye weed. Tate, a retired Fairfax County biology teacher, once gardened for aesthetics, she says, but then read the native plant gardener\u2019s \u201cbible,\u201d Bringing Nature Home by University of Delaware entomologist Dr. Douglas Tallamy. She dug out the non-native, ornamental shrubs and replaced them with native plants. Why?\r\n\u201cWe\u2019re taking land for development and not leaving enough for wildlife," Tate said. "Our backyards can give sustenance to all kinds of little creatures. There should be room for all of us.\u201d\r\n\r\nGardening is in her veins. Inspired by her father and grandfather, she had her first garden at age 12 in Davenport, Iowa. She spreads out cantaloupe seeds for cardinals, following the model of her mother-in-law who saved them 50 years ago. Veneeta and Sue exchange plants and seeds.\r\nAlexandria\u2019s Duncan Library garden is also a certified Monarch Waystation where five volunteers put in over 50 native plants.\r\nMiraculous Monarchs\r\nMonarchs (Danaus plexippus) are four-inch butterflies that have orange wings with black veins and white edges. Monarchs are one of the few butterfly species that migrates. In the fall, they journey from central and eastern U.S. to the oyamel fir forests of central Mexico to overwinter in a dormant state. In the spring, they mate and return north.\r\nIn May and June, females lay their green eggs on milkweed plants and die. Their striking yellow-, white- and black-striped caterpillar then feeds exclusively on milkweed leaves and forms a chrysalis out of which the adult butterfly emerges. This generation mates and establishes another brood. In the fall, the new generation flies south.\r\nThe monarchs\u2019 migration is \u201can extraordinary biological phenomenon,\u201d Chip Taylor, University of Kansas biologist and Monarch Watch head told American Gardener magazine.\r\nMonarch butterfly populations plummeted for many years because of pesticide and herbicide use, milkweed loss and logging in Mexico. In 2013-14, fewer monarchs made it to Mexico than ever before, the lowest number ever since 1993. In that year, they occupied 1.66 acres of Mexico\u2019s mountain forests of Mexico, a historic low. In January 2019, many people were cheered to learn that monarchs occupied 14.95 acres, the largest measurement since 2006-2007.\r\nThe increase this winter is no guarantee of a long-term trend, experts caution.\r\n\u201cIt buys us time,\u201d Ryan Norris of the University of Guelph told the Associated Press.\r\nScientists maintain that 15 acres of coverage is the minimum for the long-term viability of the migrating monarch population.\r\n\r\nMonarch Waystations\r\nAll along their migratory journey, monarchs need food and habitat and many devotees are planting monarch-friendly gardens and getting their gardens certified as monarch waystations. The 21,908 certified gardens provide nectar for migratory monarchs and are what are called \u201chost plants\u201d for monarch larvae or caterpillars. Host plants generally are the plants where butterflies lay eggs and the plants that butterfly caterpillars eat. Most butterfly caterpillars feed on specific plant species. Monarch caterpillars eat milkweed and only milkweed. Without milkweed, they cannot complete their life cycle. So for butterfly gardeners, a \u201cmunched\u201d plant is a good sign!\r\n\r\nButterfly Gardening\r\nButterfly gardens are springing up all over, in backyards, in schoolyards, at the American Horticultural Society\u2019s River Farm in Mount Vernon and even at Fort Belvoir. Four Mile Run Park and Burgundy Farm Country Day School have certified Monarch Waystations.\r\nCindy Wackerbarth runs the local Monarch Teacher Network and explains why.\r\n\u201cThe monarch experience has been spiritual, practical, fun and something so special to share with children and adults alike," Wackerbarth said. "It has strengthened my resolve and given me a continuing larger purpose. It is not just about a butterfly. It is about sustainability for all living things which extends to clean water, clean air, good food, farming and more.\u201d\r\nA butterfly garden can be any size, from a window box to a multi-acre field. The key to butterfly gardening is planting appropriate plants.\r\n\u201cSelecting plants that will feed butterflies while also encouraging them to stick around for a while, laying eggs and creating a new generation of butterflies, is your goal,\u201d advises the North American Butterfly Association\u2019s\u00a0website. \u201cTo do this, you will need to choose plants that fall into two groups: nectar plants that will provide adult butterflies with energy and caterpillar food plants that will feed caterpillars. With careful selection from these two groups, your garden will provide for the entire life cycle of butterflies.\u201d\r\nNABA recommends researching plants before shopping because most vendors do not label plants as native or non-native and may mislabel plants as \u201cbutterfly-friendly.\u201d Most experts recommend planting a variety of nectar and host plants to attract a variety of butterfly species. Also, trees and shrubs can provide roost sites and shelter from the wind and predators.\r\nMost suburban landscapes of manicured grass and non-native ornamental plants are not very hospitable to native insects.\r\nIn his book, Dr. Doug Tallamy puts it this way: \u201cWe have allowed alien plants to replace natives all over the country. Our native animals and plants cannot adapt to this gross and completely unnatural manipulation of their environment in time to negate the consequences. Their only hope for a sustainable future is for us to intervene to right the wrongs that we have perpetrated. In order to let nature take its course, we must first recreate nature.\u201d\r\nMany gardeners are intervening by creating butterfly gardens to support native insects and especially to sustain the spectacular monarch migration phenomenon.