GULFPORT, Miss. (WJTV) – The Mississippi Aquarium created a pollinator garden for monarch butterflies filled with milkweed, nectar and shelter to assist them on their migration across the Gulf of Mexico.

Mississippi Aquarium Director of Research Holley Muraco said each year, the Eastern monarch butterfly takes flight on a 2,800 mile migration from their wintering grounds in Michoacan, Mexico, to their summers habitats in North America and Canada.

The garden will assist the monarchs by providing them milkweed, a declining wildflower that the butterflies eat exclusively.

Muraco said it’s unclear whether the butterflies cross the Gulf of Mexico on their migration or along the coastlines. Either way, she said, the Mississippi Coast is an important factor in their travel.

“The garden serves as a ‘monarch weigh station’, where monarchs are gently caught and tagged with a Monarch Watch number as they pass through the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” said Mississippi Aquarium Vice President of Veterinary Services Alexa Delaune.

The plants were provided by the National Audubon Society. Guests can find the butterflies between the Aquarium’s Founders Wall and Changing Tides.