Get Close & Personal with Butterflies at Monarchpalooza with Lori Stralow Harris

Lori Stralow Harris

Lori Stralow Harris, who raises butterflies and bees in Western Springs, Illinois, found herself in a bit of a pickle last fall.

She had been raising 200 monarch butterflies at her Salt Creek Butterfly Farm for a fundraiser at a nature conservancy, and was keeping them in a flight house at a nearby retirement community. Just four days before the fundraiser, the butterflies were gone — released by a resident who was concerned they were trapped.

Running out of time, Harris started to look high and low for the monarchs. She went to a nature preserve she knew had plants that would attract butterflies. She called all of her friends and colleagues who knew anything about the creatures.

“Long story short, I had to shift gears and quit thinking about it as a disaster and think, ‘what would a monarch do right now?’ ” Harris said.

She will tell the rest of the story at a Bird, Tree & Garden Club Brown Bag lecture at 12:15 p.m. today, July 16, in Smith Wilkes Hall. The talk is titled “The Monarch Bridge: A Story of Lasting Connections.”

Harris said she has been raising butterflies for nearly 10 years now. She first got interested in the trade when she volunteered at the Chicago Academy of Sciences. She became fascinated by the wide variety of butterflies that had come from all over the world.

She continues to be fascinated by monarch butterflies’ annual migration of thousands of miles to Mexico, where they spend the winters.

“I think they’re both really resilient and fragile at the same time,” Harris said. “They have to go through an awful lot to make that migration and still, they do it.”

The monarchs’ migration is getting more difficult because of human interference. Butterfly-friendly habitats are more sparse than they used to be, and butterflies are often an unfortunate casualty of bug spray.

“In addition to putting chemicals on the yard to get rid of the plants butterflies need, people spray Talstar that kills larvae of every kind,” Harris said. “We’re killing off bees and butterflies for our own convenience.”

To support butterfly populations, Harris said, people can use more natural mosquito repellent methods, such as planting rosemary, marigold and other plants that give off a fragrance mosquitoes do not like.

In addition to her talk today, Harris will help BTG facilitate its Monarchpalooza from noon to 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Lincoln Park. Chautauquans will be able to enter a tent and interact with 200 butterflies that Harris will bring.

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The author Julia Preszler

Julia Preszler covers the environmental beat for the Daily. She is a journalism student at Northeastern University in Boston. Julia has previously interned at The Boston Globe and two community newspapers in her home state of Connecticut. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, photography and watching stand-up comedy. This is her first season at Chautauqua.