Linda Auld is known around New Orleans for two things: bugs and butterflies.
Her reputation and mission are spreading to the Baton Rouge area.
Her grandfather started Barber Laboratories in 1921, a pest control company that she runs today. But that’s her business. Her passion is for raising and attracting butterflies of all kinds, especially Monarchs, the national butterfly of the United States.
But the number of monarchs counted along their migration route from the United States to Mexico and Southern California, and back, have been declining dramatically, Auld said, most likely because “of all the concrete.”
Loss of open fields to construction have decreased the area of land where milkweed, the sole food source for monarch caterpillars, grow naturally, Auld said.
Other factors contributing to the loss of Monarch habitat are pesticides and mowing, according to the website www.monarchwatch.org.
Despite the fact that there are 33 types of milkweed native to Louisiana, she said, the plants have grown sparser, and because the native seeds are not commonly sought after, she had a hard time finding a place to buy milkweed seeds in bulk.
So, she decided to do something about it.
Last year, Barber Laboratories launched Project Monarch, and Auld became Louisiana’s only milkweed seed distributor. Auld said she has distributed more than 120,000 seeds last year, and her goal this year is to get a quarter-million seeds spread around the south Louisiana.
Auld’s seeds are available in Baton Rouge at Harb’s Oasis, Clegg’s and the Louisiana Nursery and Naylor’s Hardware and Garden Center for $5 a pack, and each pack contains three bags of 20 seeds each.
“They’re called passalong packs,” she said. “The idea is to spread on pack in a sunny area of your yard that you don’t plant to mow and don’t plan to use insecticide, then pass along the other two to friends and family.”
Aulds brought seeds, plus a milkweed plant and a few caterpillars, to the local garden centers during a March 7 Monarch tour, spreading not only seeds, but information about butterfly gardening to customers.
There’s good reason, besides its iconic beauty, Auld said, to keep the Monarch from dying out.
“They’re really remarkable,” she said, and the only butterfly in the world that will migrate twice in its life cycle, following the warmth from 1,000 to 3,000, one way, every fall and spring.
The butterflies roost for the winter in Southern Califorina and Mexico, with descendants returning not just to the same grove of trees each year to overwinter, but to the same tree.
Auld’s campaign to save the Monarch begins with milkweed, but, she said, “if you want the adults to stick around once they’re hatched, you have to plant adult food,” in the form of flowering plants.
For information on what to plant to attract Monarch or any other butterflies, visit any of the following gardening centers where the passalong packs are sold:
Louisiana Nursery, 8680 Perkins Road
Clegg’s Nursery, 5696 Seigen Lane
Harb’s Oasis, 13827 Coursey Blvd.
Naylor’s Hardware and Gardening Center, 14441 Old Hammond Highway.