Why I love the Monarch Butterfly

Image of Monarch Waystation

Audrey Armstrong with children at Peninsula Shores District School Monarch Waystation, Wiarton ON Photo by Willy Waterton

This blog was written by Audrey Armstrong.

Back in 1977, filmmakers Peter and Fran Mellen created a poetic movie, Monarchs, filmed along the Rocky Saugeen River in Grey County, ON. They also travelled to the newly discovered overwintering sites of Monarchs in Michoacan, Mexico to film the amazing story of the Monarchs’ astonishing migration and life cycle. I had recently graduated from the Ontario College of Art and found a job as a researcher with the Mellens. I learned about Monarchs and was hooked by the magnificent butterfly.

Since then, during a 3 decade teaching career, I have incorporated Monarchs in my work with children. Trying to instil the awe and wonder I first found in the meadows of the Saugeen valley, I shared the Monarch story with thousands of children. An enduring lesson, I frequently meet past students who fondly remember Monarchs and the fun we had. As a member of the Monarch Teacher’s Network (MTN), I have been able to reach out to other educators in Ontario, California and Mexico. Through MTN and with fellow educators, I have been an active workshop presenter over the past decade.

Over the last year, I have presented workshops about Creating Monarch Friendly Habitat in places such as the Grey Bruce Area, the Huron Fringe Birding Festival, the Bruce Peninsula National Park BioBlitz, the 6th Annual Monarch Butterfly Festival, Bruce Peninsula National Park and the Georgian Bay Garden Club. Be sure to look for future presentations at places like this on the Monarch Butterfly!

You can also join in the efforts to bring back the Monarch Butterfly by creating Monarch friendly habitat! On December 5th, 2016 the Monarch was moved from species of special concern to threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Jennifer Heron, co-chair of the Arthropods Subcommittee, summed it up:

“We need to continue to support the conservation of milkweed caterpillar habitat both here in Canada and along the Monarch’s migratory journey, and we need to support continued conservation of critical overwintering areas. Otherwise, Monarch migration may disappear, and Canada may lose this iconic species.”

 

Image of Monarch Butterflies workshop

Teachers from the Bluewater District Board of Education at a Teaching and Learning with Monarch Butterflies workshop, through the Monarch Teacher Network, Canada. Location is Peninsula Shores district School, Wiarton ON photo by Willy Waterton.

Help save the Monarch Butterfly by signing Nature Canada’s petition today!

This year’s 2016/17 population statistics will come out near the end of February. Last year’s statistics from the WWF-Mexico and the Reserva Biosfera de la Mariposa Monarca indicate a small increase in the overwintering population compared to 2014/15 record low, but the population remained at 80%, below the historic average. Last year’s population contained only 57 million compared with a long term average of 300 million and a peak of 1 billion. However, a catastrophic snow storm in Mexico’s overwintering sites last March decimated the numbers by possibly 50%, according to Lincoln Brower of Sweet Briar University.

Read about the monarch and recent research on the geographic origins of overwintering monarchs, from the University of Guelph research by Ryan Norris.

What YOU can do?

Attending workshops offers an opportunity to create natural habitat corridors for Monarchs throughout their migration and summer range. As well as learning how to create your own monarch butterfly waystation, you will also attract other pollinators like hummingbirds, bees and other butterflies with native habitat.

Many free resources including Nature Canada’s Monarch Guide are offered to participants as well as free asclepias incarnata swamp milkweed seeds. Or consider signing our petition to help save  Monarch Butterflies! OR click here to hear what recent school kids think of the plight of the Monarch Butterfly!

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