Work at Lighthouse Field includes multiple projects with the overarching goal of increasing biodiversity and enhancing monarch butterfly habitat at Lighthouse Field.
The coastal scrub restoration project began in 2013 with California State Parks,Gateway School and the Bay View Brownie Troop. The restoration work has improved pollinator and song bird habitat in Lighthouse Field and paved the way for subsequent work.
The Lighthouse Field Habitat Enhancement Project is focused on improving habitat for monarch butterflies. This work is a collaborative effort with California State Parks, US Fish and Wildlife Local Coastal Program and the Xerces Society. The Lighthouse Field Overwintering Site is the 7th largest monarch overwintering site West of the Rockies. Groundswell worked with partners to create the Monarch Butterfly Site Management Plan for Lighthouse Field State Beach. With support from the USFWS and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation we are working with project partners to implement recommendations contained in the Plan including strategic tree planting, determination and mitigation of sources of over wintering mortality and planting of monarch friendly plant species.
One of the most significant sources of mortality for monarchs at Lighthouse Field are yellowjackets (Vespula spp.). Ricardo Ruiz, intern and UCSC student, found in his 2018 Senior Thesis that yellowjackets accounted for 49% of monarch mortalities at this site. The video below shows a western yellowjacket (Vespula pensylvanica) attacking a monarch at Lighthouse Field. We are actively work to reduce yellowjacket predation by installing and maintaining yellowjacket traps and using non-toxic methods to remove yellowjacket nest in and around overwintering sites.
Yellowjackets are omnivores, frequently consuming human food and are subsidizing by trash with food remains. You can help reduce monarch mortality by depositing waste in trash cans, picking up food waste left by others, and alerting us to the location of yellowjacket nests in the vicinity of monarch overwintering sites. You can email a description of the location of yellowjacket nests to info at groundswellecology.org. Even better you can drop a Google pin on your smart phone and email it to us.
You may notice our other restoration work around Lighthouse Field. Efforts include planting the next generation of trees to replace the trees in the grove as they senesce, planting early and late season blooming native nectar plants, and removing woody debris to reduce the risk of fire in the grove. This work involves many partners such as USFWS, local neighbors, Patagonia Santa Cruz, Gateway Elementary School and others. Check out our list of early and late flowering nectar plants for Santa Cruz County here.
We will be planting additional nectar plants this coming winter and volunteers are encouraged to help. Contact us if you are interested helping with socially distanced nectar plantings.