Chautauquans and members of the surrounding community will have the chance to get up close and personal with 200 monarch butterflies at Monarchpalooza today.
This is the third time the Bird, Tree & Garden Club is hosting the event, which will take place from noon to 3:30 p.m. Thursday, July 18 in Lincoln Park. In addition to meeting the butterflies, attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about the species and ways they can support them.
“This is really an awareness of the plight of the monarch butterfly,” said event organizer Lynda Acker. “Because of various factors like pesticide and herbicide overuse, we have lost upwards of 95% of the population.”
The event, which is free to all, will feature a tent where visitors can watch and interact with 200 monarch butterflies. On display will be examples of butterflies in every phase of their life cycle. They begin as an egg, grow into a caterpillar and then create a cocoon where they embark on their transformative process.
A number of experts — including representatives from the Audubon Community Nature Center and the Roger Tory Peterson Institute — will be on hand to answer questions.
Julie Holland, who has spoken for BTG in the past, will demonstrate tagging monarchs before their migratory flight to Mexico.
BTG master gardeners will be available to provide guidance about how to plant and maintain a monarch-friendly garden. Adrienne Ploss of Hickory Hurst Farm will sell native nectar and host plants that people can take home to make their home gardens more conducive to butterflies’ needs.
People will be able to go to eight stations to learn about the life cycle of a butterfly, as well as some of the modern challenges facing the creatures. They will get their Monarch Passport stamped at each station. Once the passport is completed, they will be able to enter the butterfly tent. There will also be a lemonade stand, crafts and face painting.
The butterflies will be provided by Lori Stralow Harris of Salt Creek Butterfly Farm in Western Springs, Illinois.
“That’s really where learning happens and bridges are built,” Harris said. “We are really letting the monarchs work their magic and let us fall in love with them. If you have a personal connection with something, you’re more likely to become a steward of them.”
At the last Monarchpalooza event, Harris said, a father came up to her and said that this event would be one his son would never forget.
“We have tiny kids who love this event,” Acker said. “We have 90-year-olds who won’t get out of the tent.”
This year, BTG received a grant for the event from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, which will help support some of the costs of the educational aspects of the event.
BTG hopes the event inspires people to do what they can to help monarch butterflies, which are experiencing a dramatic decline in population.
Monarch butterflies migrate thousands of miles to Mexico at the end of every summer.
When the monarchs return from Mexico, they go through the Midwest before fanning out throughout the rest of the country. In the Midwest, monoculture agriculture has reduced the amount of milkweed and butterfly-friendly habitat. Additionally, many of the crops grown on large swaths of land in the Midwest are genetically modified to be resistant to insecticides, so large amounts of the chemicals can be sprayed across the crops. Butterflies are an unintentional victim of the insecticides.
“There are a lot of things that people can do just in the community, like practice responsible gardening with no pesticides and no herbicides,” Acker said.
BTG encourages people to register their gardens as Monarch Waystations through Monarch Watch by planting native plants and milkweed, which is the only egg-laying host to monarch butterflies. At its events each week, BTG recognizes those who have registered their gardens as waystations and pins the location of their garden — whether on the grounds or elsewhere in the country — on a map.
“We’re helping a specific pollinator here by raising awareness and education in the community,” Acker said. “But by virtue of that, we’re raising awareness for pollinators in general. So it’s much broader than just one butterfly, as magnificent as it is.”