My Monarch Butterfly Garden Project

Monarch Caterpillar Vienna VA
Monarch Caterpillar Vienna VA
Monarch Butterfly Project Vienna VA

By Robin Ballou

After moving to Vienna, VA I started on a small garden venture that has grown tenfold this year. When I started out, planting my first Milkweed plant, I never thought I’d be so successful attracting so many Monarch butterflies to my yard.

We would get to watch them lay their eggs, see them turn into caterpillars, and chow down on the milkweed leaves. I had no idea that harvesting caterpillars to help repopulate the diminishing monarch population was going to be so rewarding, and so frustrating at the same time. I have learned so much through my two seasons helping the Monarchs.

Inspire you to start a Monarch butterfly garden too

I hope to inspire others to start their own Monarch butterfly gardens, and help Vienna repopulate this threatened insect.

To give you a little bit of background, I have always been an advocate for our animals and our environment. One of my ventures, a few years back, was creating the Colorado Green Action Network. When I wasn’t busy being a speech pathologist or a full time mommy, I was dedicated to improving the health of our community.

The network worked with local, and state representatives to help protect our environment. It also helped to educate the community about coming together to make a safer, healthier environment for us, our children and our animals. Our network saved everything from burrowing owls, to coyotes and helped move prairie dogs by hand when their habitat was threatened.

Moving to Vienna Virginia was a perfect fit for me…

After moving back to the East Coast, it seems I haven’t lost my interest in this area. Moving to Vienna Virginia was a perfect fit for me with the parks, green spaces and the town’s goal to become a Wildlife Habitat town.

So, when a friend told me about pitching in to help save the Monarchs, it was a no brainer!

In doing some research, I found out we needed to plant milkweed plants. But, they couldn’t just be any milkweed plant. They have found even the slightest amount of pesticides in the plants or the seeds of the milkweed plants will kill the Monarchs (and any other pollinators that land on it!)

One common pesticide used by many homeowners and around schools and buildings, called neonicotinoids, are problematic for many of our pollinators as the poison is systemic. It is spread throughout the whole plant. So when bees, Monarchs and other pollinators come to feed on the plants, they die.

Another problem that may deter butterflies from your garden and your neighbor’s garden is the use of weed killers such as Roundup. Roundup has had a significant impact on the Monarch population as it kills the very thing it needs to survive, the Milkweed!

I do have to say, that I was so nervous and frustrated throughout this process, as many in the town still use companies to spray pesticides and herbicides, and the drift can be so toxic on some days. I’ve also seen many just spray their beautiful flowers with chemicals freely and I don’t think they are aware the poison just doesn’t kill the pests, it kills everything that lands on the plant. It also has adverse effects on our health and the health of our pets.

Milkweed Plant for Monarch ButterfyIn setting out on this venture, I didn’t know if my caterpillars would survive.

I started out with ten milkweed plants I bought at the local nursery. We tracked the plants back to their origin and made sure they were pesticide/insecticide free. I planted them in early summer in my front garden. Almost magically, little tiny white, yellow and black caterpillars appeared. Since I wanted to have a better chance of survival rate for these guys, I decided to harvest the caterpillars when they were large enough and bring them in. I snipped the leaves the caterpillars were munching on and placed the caterpillar in a pet container. (Beware, the milkweed plant has latex. I would tend to use gloves when snipping the leaves and buds, and was careful to wash after.) I found the pet containers in the small habitat area at Petco/Petsmart for $10 apiece. They came with a removable top that was perfect for the caterpillars to attach their cocoons to.

What a great real-life science lesson for the kiddos!

I laid paper towels on the bottom of the cages for their well, caterpillar poop, and replaced them with new towels every morning. I placed fresh leaves and milkweed pods in the containers every day and removed the wilted leaves.

Out of my first year’s 13 caterpillars, 11 were released as butterflies.

I loved watching them emerge from their cocoons, and what a great real-life science lesson for the kiddos!

But I have to admit, I was the most excited one. It feels amazing to let the butterflies crawl on your finger, bring them outside and watch them fly away.

This year our milkweed plants took off and we had more than 20 plants! Because of that, we took in over 90 caterpillars. I set free all, but one. What a success!! I have heard in the wild only 10% of the caterpillars actually make it to the butterfly stage. I am not sure how much truth there is to that.

Monarch Butterfly Project Vienna VAIt will be interesting to see what next year brings!

We have recently transplanted some milkweed to the back yard to let it spread there. I can’t wait to see how any plants we will have next year. We continue to be a pesticide free zone and in doing so, we are able to help the Monarchs repopulate! We hope that you join us, as well, in becoming pesticide/herbicide free.

If you would like to learn more about using fewer pesticides and saving the Monarchs, I would love to share my experiences with you.

I hope with each newsletter to provide information to help others in the community add to their wildlife habitat in a way that is safe to all, animals, people and the environment. I look forward to taking you on other adventures, as we continue to add to and enhance our wildlife habitat!

NEVCA is involved in many community programs in Vienna and is always looking for volunteers to help out. Contact us if you have some spare time!

NEVCA Spring Meeting 2015

NEVCA Beulah Road Vienna VA

Street sign Beulah Road Vienna VAThe Northeast Vienna Citizens Association is holding a general membership meeting open to everyone on Tuesday, May 19th at 8:00p.m. The meeting will be at the Vienna Community Center.  Annual election of officers will be held as well.

Scheduled speakers include:

Anne will make a presentation on the history of the Town of Vienna, and Mary will provide an update on interesting plans for the garden’s 2015 growing season.

A complete agenda will be sent to members 10 days beforehand.

For more information or if you are interested in attending, please contact

The Committee for Helping Others in Vienna Needs Toy Donations on Friday for local children!

Committee for Helping Others

CHO Toy Donation in Vienna Friday December 12

drop off from 9 to noon at Vienna Presbyterian

This is an urgent request for your help…

“I had some disappointing news this morning.  After two weeks of trying to reach the company that makes the largest toy donation to set up their delivery, they finally called back today and said they aren’t going to be able to help us at all this year!  Right now, we’re preparing for around 400 children.  More than 70 of them are teens and hopefully will be served by donations of gift cards.  The rest we usually serve with toys and fun items.  I’ve broken down the list into age groups such as 3-4 year olds, 5-6 year olds and we have around 50 boys and girls in each group.”

We called Carolyn Mysel to get some additional detail on what they need for you to bring over on Friday:

  • Unwrapped toys
  • New clothes
  • Outside toys
  • Balls
  • legos
  • games
  • specifically toys for 7 to 12 year old boys
  • no stuffed animals needed
  • she already seemed okay in the “gift card” category

Carolyn explained that families in need are allowed to select through the donated toys. CHO needs toys for children from 1 month to 12 years old. Toys should not be too large since many of the children live in small apartments, so, please keep that point in mind.

She concluded with “we appreciate anything you can donate to help us.”

Donate Friday December 12 from 9 to Noon at Vienna Presbyterian Church

Please take a look at the Committee for Helping Others web site for additional information about this local organization and how you can participate too.

Or, if you need additional information contact NEVCA at


CHO | Vienna VA Food Drive 2015

Vienna Holiday Food Drive CHO 2014

Vienna Virginia Food Drive 2014NEVCA is again helping raise awareness for the Committee for Helping Others (CHO) annual food drive through December 31, 2015.

Non-perishable, non-expired food and sundry items will be accepted. Among items most needed are pancake mix, canned chili, spaghetti sauce, cooking oil, white rice, laundry detergent, and dish soap.

CHO has been serving Vienna, Oakton, Dunn Loring and Merrifield since 1969. It is supported by area churches, civic organizations and individuals. CHO provides simple, loving charity to people in need.

For more information, call 703-938-7213

The CHO food drive is sponsored by NEVCA

Please bring your CHO food contributions to:

  • Vienna Town Hall
  • Vienna Community Center
  • Patrick Henry Library ~ co-sponsored by Supervisor Cathy Hudgins
  • Bikes@Vienna ~ 128-A Church Street NW
  • Caffè Amouri ~ 107 Church Street NE
  • Uniquities
  • Evolution Fitness ~ 216 Dominion Road NE
  • Rexall Drug Store ~ 150 Maple Avenue West
  • Vienna Arts Society ~ 115 Pleasant Street NW

Please, NO expired food!

Girl Scout Cadette Troop 2684 from Kilmer Middle School will help NEVCA by picking up the food.

Partnership with Fairfax Supervisor Cathy Hudgins

Special Needs:

  • Diapers Sizes 4, 5, and 6
  • Cooking Oil
  • Canned Fruit
  • Jelly (small jars)
  • Canned Salmon
  • Spam, Canned Hams
  • Cans of Tuna
  • Pancake Mix & Syrup
  • Oatmeal
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Dish Soap

CHO is making plans for the Holidays

Please bring new unwrapped gifts for children and teens to Vienna Presbyterian Church on December 12 between 9 a.m. and noon.

Town of Vienna Candidates’ Forum 2014

Vienna VA Town Green Springtime flowers
Vienna VA Town Green Springtime flowers
Tulips on the Vienna Town Green

All Town of Vienna Virginia residents are invited to attend the 2014 Candidates’ Forum on April 22 at the Vienna Community Center.

The Northeast Vienna Citizens Association is pleased to host this event for the entire Vienna community to meet candidates running for Town Council and Mayor. As in previous NEVCA candidate forums, each candidate will be invited to open with brief remarks, followed by a moderated question and answer session.

Tuesday, April 22 from 7:30 to 9:30 PM

Vienna Community Center Auditorium

120 Cherry St SE, Vienna, VA 22180

Who is running this year?

Read comments from them in the NEVCA Newsletter (page 3)


Laurie A. DiRocco

Town Council (vote for not more than three)

Mike L. Cheselka

Linda Jane Colbert

Edythe Frankel Kelleher

Pasha M. Majdi

Dennis E. Rice

Tara L. Voigt

Town of Vienna Election Day is May 6, 2014

Vienna Community Learning Garden

Town of Vienna Community Garden
Town of Vienna Community Garden
Town of Vienna Community Learning Garden planned for Spring 2014

NEVCA President Bob McCahill recently announced that Fairfax County awarded a $4,000 community enhancement grant to NEVCA which will be used to bring two water supply lines to the new Community Learning Garden in Town.

The Community Learning Garden will be located near the Vienna Community Center and W&OD Trail. The garden will be overseen and maintained by the Vienna Parks and Recreation Department, and Director Cathy Salgado is getting input from Town arborists, the Vienna Community Enhancement Commission, Ayr Hill Garden Club and youth organizations.

“The project is generating enthusiasm among town residents, it’s well-received, and a great way to bring people together for a specific goal.”

Construction will begin this spring (2014) and volunteers will be needed to help install fence posts and planting beds. Also, this project will require future volunteers to weed and maintain this community garden.

If you are interested in volunteering, contact the Town of Vienna Parks and Rec Department at 703-255-6360

NEVCA members are proud to participate in community projects such as this one that will be enjoyed by all for years to come.

If you want to become a member of NEVCA, please contact us at

Making Donations to CHO in Vienna

CHO NEVCA featured image

NEVCA is again suggesting you make donations to a very local charitable organization – CHO.

Committee for Helping Others CHO Vienna VA Charitable Org
CHO helps the needy in the Vienna, Oakton, Dunn Loring, and Merrifield Virginia

Please be generous!

Where does collected food go?  To the food closet across Park Street from Vienna Presbyterian Church, then to local families in need.

What foods are needed? Chunky soups, Cooking oil, Canned tuna & salmon, Peanut butter and jelly (small jars please), Pancake mix & syrup, Spaghetti. 

Nonfood items needed too?  Yes…Shampoo — small bottles, Toothbrushes, Diapers in size 3.

CHO Collection Points for December 2013

  • Town Hall
  • Vienna Community Center,
  • Patrick Henry Library (only December)
  • Bikes@Vienna
  • Caffé Amouri
  • Evolution Fitness
  • Rexall Drug in Vienna
  • Uniquities

Are you interested in helping CHO as a volunteer?

Learn more about the Committee for Helping Others, click here.

Annual Meeting 2013

Community Center Town of Vienna VA
Vienna VA Community Center
Main Entrance of The Community Center

The Northeast Vienna Citizens Association (NEVCA) will hold a general membership meeting, open to everyone, on Thursday, November 14, @ 8:00pm at the Community Center.

Fairfax County’s Connector Bus division will discuss the new bus route serving northeast Vienna and possible traffic calming measures, and the Town of Vienna Parks & Rec Department will discuss plans for the community center and an exciting joint effort with NEVCA building a new community & learning garden.

Volunteers will be needed in the future with the building of the learning garden.

The Vienna Community Center is located at 120 Cherry Street SE, where the W&OD Trail crosses Park Street.

Town Council Candidates Forum

Vienna Virginia Council Election Signs
Town of Vienna Town Council Candidates 2013
Election signs along Church Street in Vienna

A Candidate’s Forum was held on April 24th, 2013 at the Vienna Community Center from 7:30 to 9:30. All members of the community were welcome to attend to hear the four candidates present their objectives and reasons why the would best represent residents on the Town Council.

In alphabetical order, the candidates were Laurie DiRocco, Carey Sienicki, Howard Springsteen, and Ryan Thomas.

We encouraged residents to bring a question or two on a topic that was important to you. They included traffic, taxes, leash laws, sidewalks or housing construction.

Town of Vienna Election Day is May 7th

Read the April 2013 Newsletter for more insight.

The Northeast Vienna Citizens Association

Vienna station Taken by Doug Francis
Vienna Virginia photo by Doug Francis
Along the W&OD Trail

As 2014 quickly began, so did a new day for NEVCA.

The Northeast Vienna Citizens Association was established twenty years ago by members of the community who wanted to express their opinions to the Vienna Town Council as a unified voice. As a grass-roots, volunteer organization of smart residents started getting involved they realized that their neighbors shared a similar love of their community.

Here are a few issues that were addressed:

  • Beulah Road Park ~ Town leaf mulching
  • Beulah Road Reconstruction
  • Establishment of Northside Park

NEVCA has also sponsored opportunities to meet candidates for Vienna Town Council. This candidate forum involves question and answer sessions from the candidates at the Vienna Community Center, were a great way for all residents of Town to meet candidates and members of the Town Council. The Candidates Forum took place in April as the elections in Vienna take place in May.

The Vienna Town Council election takes place on May 6, 2014.

Northeast Vienna Citizens Association ~ Vienna, Virginia

Current issues discussed by NEVCA include:

  • The impact of Tysons Corner Expansion
  • Fairfax Connector Bus Service to the Silver Line
  • Bicycle lanes and trails
  • Trees
  • The Freeman Store’s listing on the National Register of Historic Sites
  • Traffic

NEVCA also generates a written newsletter twice a year which is mailed to members and the community. If you are interested getting involved with NEVCA or have an idea that will enhance the community, please contact us at