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News | Sept. 19, 2022

Eagle Eye Golf Course designated as Monarchs in the Rough official butterfly habitat site

By Stefanie Hauck DLA Land and Maritime Public Affairs

Defense Supply Center Columbus Eagle Eye Golf Course has been designated as a Monarchs in the Rough official habitat site for the monarch butterfly by Audubon International.

The designation is a result of a partnership between Defense Logistics Agency Installation Management – Columbus’ Environmental Division and DSCC’s Morale Welfare and Recreation and is part of an ongoing effort to create pollinator habitat on the installation.

Audubon International and the Environmental Defense Fund administers the Monarchs in the Rough program partnering with golf courses nationwide to create pollinator habitat in out-of-play or rough areas.

According to the United States Golf Association, golf courses represent some of the last remaining green space in many communities.

“The program raises awareness about the decline of monarch butterflies and provides much needed breeding habitat,” DLA Installation Management – Columbus Environmental Division Chief Nicole Goicochea said. “It aims to boost populations by gaining participation from courses along the migration route from Canada to Mexico.”

The program was created to help bolster monarch butterfly populations which have been in a steep decline in recent years and are a threatened species due to habitat loss, migratory route disruptions and other environmental factors.

“Unfortunately, populations have been declining since the 1990s,” Goicochea said. “And we really wanted to raise awareness about that. Monarchs are currently being evaluated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife for potentially endangered species status so it’s something that we wanted to do, something to contribute to.”

According to the Monarch Butterfly Fund, adult monarchs lay eggs as soon as they arrive in the region, around March and April, on all types of milkweed in varying habitats from wetlands to prairies. The caterpillars eat the milkweed leaves and are big enough to form a chrysalis after about two weeks. Then an adult butterfly emerges after 10 days. That butterfly mates and lays eggs again and then dies. Monarchs do this cycle all over again in May and June and then the cycle is repeated one more time in July and August. The fourth generation are the ones that then fuel up on a wide variety of wildflowers before traveling south to Mexico in September.

“It’s really quite amazing because each generation of the monarch travels a different leg of that journey all the way up towards Canada to Mexico,” Goicochea said. 

An important part of the Monarchs in the Rough program is the distribution of milkweed seed to participating courses.

“Monarchs use milkweed as a host plant as that’s what the monarch caterpillars eat in order to develop the toxins that actually deter predators from eating them because it makes them sick,” Goicochea said.

“So, the milkweed is a super important piece of habitat restoration,” Goicochea added. 

The planting of the milkweed and the Monarchs in the Rough designation is the latest of several habitat improvements on the installation.

In December 2017, the rough areas of the golf course and a three-acre site on the north side of the installation just west of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s office were transformed into prairie habitat using a regionally appropriate seed mix. The mix was formulated for pollinators and contains blooms for spring, summer and fall.

“An advantage of planting these seed mixes is that we get a lot of different varieties of species that will bloom at different times providing non-stop foraging all season long,” Goicochea said.

Initially, targeted areas were prepped by spraying various weeds, invasive species and non-native grass and then each area was mowed very short in lieu of burning. The seeds were then planted in a process called dormant seeding which is the practice of planting seeds in the winter for germination in the spring. This type of seeding also allows for cold stratification which improves seed germination by mimicking natural processes. The milkweed provided by Audubon was planted in the spring of this year as part of the certification process.

Instead of having an annual burn (which is how prairies traditionally regenerate themselves) low mowing is also done each spring after the ground nesting pollinators emerge for the season to prep the area for each season’s growth. The prairie areas on the course are now about five years old and have reached a stable and mature state, meaning the habitat can self-regenerate by reseeding itself each year.  

Also, four nest boxes made for the eastern bluebird and other cavity nesters are sprinkled throughout the rough areas of the course.

A program for monitoring nest boxes by interested associates was in place but has been put on pause due to the COVID-19 restrictions, Goicochea said.

The Monarchs in the Rough designation is marked with a sign located along the tall rough area along the fifth hole.

“This prairie is not just for golfers," Goicochea said. “It’s right across from Sports Park, there’s access to it and there is a nice, paved trail through one section of the rough area. Anyone with base access can walk out here and take a look at all the species that we have.”

Any golf course in the United States can participate in the Monarchs in the Rough program and participation is free.

The Eagle Eye Golf Course is a 9-hole course and offers memberships to all who have base access. Starting this season civilians not associated with the installation can get a one-year membership after passing a background check and obtaining a base pass. Non-golfing associates who wish to see the habitat for themselves can park in the adjacent Sports Park parking lot and walk through the various sections of habitat on the course at any time. 

Watch a video tour of the Monarchs in the Rough habitat