Adventure Talks: The exciting world of the Monarch Butterfly

It was a cold, blustery, snowy day, but almost 100 people escaped the cold for a few hours when they attended the first of the Adventure Talks at the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre (BCM&SS).

The Talks kicked off on Wednesday, February 13th, with a presentation by Kerry Jarvis and Melitta Smole of the Butterfly Gardens of Saugeen Shores.

The couple began what has begun a movement to help save the Monarch Butterfly, an endangered species. 

Since its inception in 2015, the group has grown to include many volunteers/ambassadors and some 20 certified pods of butterfly/pollinator plants have been planted in Saugeen Shores with over 4,000 plants and shrubs. 

Caterpillars feed only on the Milkweed

The most important plant is the Milkweed, which is the only plant on which the Monarch will lay its eggs and is the only plant on which the young Monarch caterpillar feeds.  Among the other plants are the Columbine, Asters, Brown-eyed Susan, Pye Weed, Verbena and the Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) and many more.

The pods are planted in strategic high-traffic areas in order to spread the impact and knowledge of them to those going by, including on the Saugeen Shores Rail Trail, McGregor Provincial Park, Chantry Island, Port Elgin United Church, Rotary Perkins Park, the Captain Spence Trail, Fairy Lake and the Bruce County Museum.

Among the most recent initiatives of the group is the ‘Caterpillar Corner’, an activity book that was published with the help of Bruce Power, and the free lending ‘Nature Library’ that opened at the butterfly pod at the foot of High Street in June, 2018.

Tagging Monarchs has also become one of the most popular programs led by the Butterfly Gardens of Saugeen Shores (BGOSS).   It brings people of all ages together to experience butterflies up close and in many instances to actually hold a butterfly for the first time.

According to Melitta Smole, BGOSS executive and co-founder, “2018 marked the fourth year of our tagging program. It was an awesome year!   We had a record number of 893 tagged monarchs — 574 males and 319 females.”

Smole attributes the increased numbers to a variety of reasons, including the healthy mature plants in the butterfly garden pods throughout Saugeen Shores, more people in our community planting native plants and milkweed and more residents and visitors who have taken an interest in learning how to tag a Monarch.

One monarch, tagged by Carl Raynard on August 25, 2018 in Southampton, was recovered alive in Indianola, Iowa on September 9th, …  some 15 days later and 2,000 kilometres away. This tagged butterfly was re-released and hopefully has joined the millions of monarchs in Mexico.

In March, the overwintering monarchs in Mexico will start the second leg of their spring migration to Texas. By the end of May and into early June the first monarch will be spotted in Saugeen Shores.

“We are looking forward to another exciting year of monarchs flying throughout our community and bringing us joy in our gardens,” says Smole.

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