A four-year process to create a backyard habitat for birds and butterflies behind the Life and Career Skills alternative school in Columbus came to a culmination recently, as the small garden was certified by Monarchwatch.org as a Monarch Butterfly migration way station.

Instructor Thelda Mayer and her gardening students received a certificate of appreciation from the University of Kansas project for the work in providing a habitat for the butterflies for their annual migration.

According to Monarchwatch.org, the butterflies make the longest migration of any butterfly in the world — as much as 3,000 miles.

The Monarchs cannot survive a cold winter and must make the annual migration to survive.

Along the way they need milkweed plants, nectar plants and shelter to reproduce and move on.

Mayer said it took about two years to get all the needed plants and shelter set up in the small garden.

“We were certified as a backyard wild life habitat about two years ago,” Mayer said. “It‘s taken about two (more) to get the waystation certified.

“The Monarchs come through and lay their eggs on the milkweeds,” she said.

The caterpillars feed exclusively on the milkweed plants and then grow to become butterflies and continue south for the winter.

The project helps KU keep track of the migration.

“We‘ve got a number so we can upload photos to the Web site,” Mayer said. “Then they can track all over the state of Kansas where these butterflies are.”

Mayer said the migration peaks in this area around September.

Mayer said she started the project after bringing in caterpillars and cocoons from her own garden which is also certified which got the students interested in the butterflies.