TROY — Although many embrace the beauty of the monarch butterfly, without any care on our part, we may see the animal disappear.
That is the message the First Annual Monarch Butterfly Celebration wanted to get across to the public at the Brukner Nature Center on Saturday. The event was created to raise awareness of the life of the monarch and the dangers it faces today.
“It was so important to have this first annual monarch butterfly celebration,” said Ruth Bowell, coordinator of the event. “Monarchs are in trouble … they are the canary in the prairie. We recognize monarchs, but we might not recognize that the other butterflies are also in decline.”
Although monarchs are not the most effective pollinators, they are pollinators that everyone recognizes, Bowell said. Awareness of the decline of monarchs can create a catalyst for the public to investigate and understand that many pollinators are declining as well.
“And so people might say, ‘I haven’t seen very many monarchs,’ and then they look into why they are not seeing any monarchs and it’s because they are not seeing very many pollinators, either,” Bowell said. “I think it just helps to make awareness of the fact that everything is in trouble – everything, and that includes us.”
Bowell has had an interest in the butterfly from a very young age and has been studying the animal and making conservation efforts for 47 years. She saves many monarchs from empty lots that are constantly mowed down and raises them at her own home.
“We have this obsession with short grass,” she said.
Being the first of its kind, the monarch celebration entailed crafts and games, a butterfly tent with free-roaming butterflies for families to experience, showing of the “Flight of the Butterflies” film, and a demonstration on how to tag butterflies for tracking.
“A lot of organizations are doing events around monarchs this year, because their population has really plummeted in the last five years,” said Deb Oexmann, executive director at Brukner. She stated that estimates are at approximately 90 percent. “It’s pretty important that we keep (milkweed) available for them during their migration.”
Milkweed is the only plant the monarch will eat as a caterpillar and where the monarch will lay her eggs. If mowed or infected by insecticides, the caterpillar dies. The monarch migrates from the northern U.S. to Mexico for the winter. Without a substantial habitat, lack of milkweed can interrupt their migration pattern.
Oexmann said the president has reached out to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in planting milkweed along the major migratory route throughout the U.S. The organization is allocating an additional $2 million of funding for conservations and will restore more than 200,000 acres of habitat and supporting over 750 schoolyard habitats and pollinator gardens.
Oexmann said the event was well received.
“I think it’s been fabulous, it exceeded our expectations,” she said. “We hope that we are raising the awareness of the flight of monarch butterflies and encourage people to plant milkweed and educate kids about monarchs and make the world a better place for them.”
How can you help the monarch?
- Growing uninfected milkweed from your home. Ron Corbett, owner of Ohio Native Plants in Tipp City, grows the common milkweed without the use of any insecticides. Visits to the location can be made via appointment. Contact them at (937) 524-4058 and email [email protected]
- Donate to the cause. Donations can be made to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conservation fund titled Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund. The organization does not accept cash or credit card payments, but accepts money orders and checks written to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and state the conservation fund to ensure your donation goes for the cause. Donations can be sent to Division of International Conservation, 5275 Lessburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.
- Be informed. For more information on the monarch butterfly and conservation, visit http://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch or visit your local nature center.
Reach Amy Barger at (937) 451-3340 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall.